.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Monday, September 18, 2006

Conference bits and pieces

Congratulations to Stephen Tall who, as I predicted yesterday morning, was awarded the prize of Liberal Democrat blogger of the year last night. Stephen's blog is consistently thoughtful, intelligent, well-written and above all liberal to its last comma. He was a very worthy winner.

All of the shortlisted blogs will, I suspect, have been visited in the last few days by supporters of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. They are campaigning for a new stadium for their football club and were demonstrating outside the Conference in force yesterday to protest at Lewes District Council's position on this. It is essentially a local issue and, as I said in the comments to another post, it is not the first time that a demonstration has gathered outside our Federal Conference, nor will it be the last.

Finally, I got a bit irritated at a Shelter fringe last night with the Party's English Housing Spokesperson. He takes an understandable and quite rational view of Housing Stock Transfer that the Government should offer another option to tenants so that they might be able to have improvements done to their homes whilst remaining Council tenants. He believes though that this just involves changing the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement. Alas, he is about five years out of date on that issue.

Councils already have the power to borrow the money they need under prudential borrowing regulations. Unfortunately, they need an income stream to pay off the loans and most Councils cannot muster that from housing rents alone simply because of the level of historic debt that they carry. In many Councils up to 50% of the income from rent will go towards paying off that debt.

Obviously, the Treasury is keen to keep the borrowing needed to improve Council Housing off the books so they offer an incentive to encourage Councils down the transfer route. They will pay off the historic debt of any local authority who secures a 'yes' vote in a ballot and proceed with a transfer. This means that the new Housing Association will start with a blank sheet and be able to use the income it receives from rent in its entirety to fund improvements.

If we genuinely want to offer an alternative then we need to convince the Treasury to pay off all that historic debt so that Councils are able to borrow the money needed to carry out improvements whilst maintaining control of their own houses. The debate then becomes one about the use of resources. Should we be repairing these homes from public funds or should we be using the money instead to build new homes to rent? Can we afford to do both? There are no easy answers. We should stop pretending that there are.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?