Council tenants could be forced to pay nationwide debts

March 22, 2010 1:20 PM
Catherine Smart

Catherine Smart

A leading Cambridge City Councillor has attacked government plans which could see the city's council tenants paying off debt from other local authorities across the country.

Catherine Smart, Executive Councillor for Housing claims the move would mean that debt run up by councils in the past to build social housing could be shared out nationwide.

This would leave Cambridge City Council - which pays over 11 million to the government through the Housing Revenue Account to help regenerate deprived areas - paying money collected from council house rents to settle the debts of other councils.

Cllr Smart said: "Cambridge desperately needs money to build council houses for those on the waiting list.

"The government has promised to change the present system and the new proposals were supposed to come out last month. But the government wants all councils to help pay off historic debt and money would be taken out of Cambridge which the city badly needs to improve its present homes and build new ones for people on the waiting list.

"This is completely unfair to our tenants and those waiting for a home. We should be allowed to keep the money in the city to help ease the shortage of council homes."

Cllr Smart called for a reform of the Housing Revenue Account recently when she spoke at conferences organised by The Chartered Institute of Housing and Defend Council Housing recently.

She told delegates that £300 million of money collected by the government is not given to the councils it is intended to help.

"We need to start rebuilding council housing to replenish the hole left by right-to-buy," she said. "This has taken, out of proportion, two and three bedroom family houses - just the housing needed for families with young children.

"Lib Dems have no problem with right-to-buy: we have considerable problems with the lack of a right to rebuild. The purchase price is taken by Whitehall; numbers of council houses reduce."

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