The first new Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) homes for nearly 30 years is, indeed, welcome news (Comet, 28 February, page 3).
The Liberal Democrats have been arguing for local councils to be given the ability to build new homes for rent for all this time, ever since the Thatcher Conservative government effectively stopped councils from building homes, which we (and Labour) made continual protests about at the time. For most of those 18 years, I listened to Labour councillors telling us that it would all be put right when they got into power.
It wasn’t. After 1997, with Labour in office, we waited 12 years whilst the Labour government took no action on this. Indeed. I sat through many meetings whilst Labour councillors complained about their own government’s failing on this issue. It was not until towards the end of their 13 years in office that they first suggested tentative plans to allow councils to build homes again.
I am very pleased that it is the Liberal Democrats in the current Coalition government that have forced this to become reality. Now, if councils can generate a surplus on their housing account, as SBC have done, they can build council homes for rent again.
These new homes will not solve the housing shortage in Stevenage, which has been growing since 1979, but they are a step in the right direction. If further funds (and land) become available, then more homes could be provided in future, under the Coalition’s new rules for housing finance.
I congratulate SBC’s housing and finance officials for getting this deal together. From the photo and quotes of smiling Labour councillors, one might wrongly think that they were responsible for the whole deal!