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Labour pledges to scrap Right To Buy housing sell-off policy in England

The policy has already been scrapped in Scotland and Wales

Jon Stone
Sunday 25 September 2016 17:52 BST
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The last Labour government left Right To Buy in place
The last Labour government left Right To Buy in place (Getty)

Labour would scrap the Right To Buy policy in England if elected, the party’s shadow housing minister has said.

Right To Buy, which lets council tenants buy their homes at a substantial discount of as much as £103,900, has already been scrapped by the Welsh and Scottish governments.

The policy, introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1980, has been blamed for causing a shortage of social housing, with well over a million homes having been transferred to the private sector during its lifetime.

“Following the examples set by Wales and Scotland, we will suspend the Right To Buy. The right to buy can only make sense in a time of surplus; in a time of shortage it makes no sense at all,” Theresa Pearce said in a speech to the Liverpool conference.

The shadow housing minister also pledged that Labour would scrap the Government’s so-called “pay to stay” policy, which substantially raises rents on council tenants with higher salaries.

The previous Labour government substantially cut the discounts available under the Right To Buy scheme but never fully abolished it. The Conservatives, however, reinvigorated the policy in their first term in coalition, causing a further wave of sell-offs.

Far from boosting home ownership, figures produced by the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee in February this year found that 40 per cent of flats sold off under the scheme were now in the hands of private landlords.

With grant funding for social housing cut sharply and councils heavily restricted from borrowing to build, sold houses have not been replaced, despite a Government pledge to build “one-for-one” replacements.

Department for Communities and Local Government data shows that local authorities in England begun building or had acquired just 422 homes, down from 715 in the previous quarter. Sales massively outstripped replacements, with 3,362 homes sold under the scheme – a slight increase on 3,276 in the previous quarter.

The National Audit Office warned last week that a “fivefold” increase was required in housebuilding to meet the one-for-one replacement target.

Housing minister Gavin Barwell last week defended the scheme.

“From London to Leeds, Right To Buy plays an important part in building a country that works for everyone, helping thousands of people become homeowners for the first time,” he said.

“And we’re determined to replace the additional homes sold on a one-for-one basis, nationally – providing new affordable homes for rent for those who need them.”

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