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Council House Sales

Volume 14: debated on Monday 30 November 1981

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he is satisfied that local authorities are making full use of the capital receipts from sales of council houses to finance further housing investment.

Under present arrangements local authorities can use half the net proceeds of council house sales to augment their capital allocations. I remind authorities that if they do not take full advantage of this facility they will be missing an opportunity to expand their housing programmes, which they can now do with some confidence.

What will those receipts amount to? Will my hon. Friend give us an assurance that those funds will be used by the authorities, some of which have complained about inadequate allocations?

The local authority returns for the first six months of this year show that total net receipts could be about £39 million. Of course the authorities may apply the prescribed proportions to supplement their housing allocations. The signs are that most authorities will spend their full allocations. It is not possible at this stage to predict whether all will make full use of their capital receipts this year, although I wish them to do so.

Does the Minister not appreciate that the construction industry needs a considerable infusion of Government money? That has been called for particularly by building trades employers and the trade unions involved in the industry. Many families in Wales are crying out for accommodation. Why does he not attend to the real problems?

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would listen to what he is told. I said that half of the net proceeds of the £39 million would be available to authorities for housing purposes. In addition, there will be the repayment of past lending and the proceeds from the sale of land, all in all amounting to about £30 million, which is the equivalent of the total budget of the housing corporation in Wales.

What was the allocation to housing authorities in Wales in 1979, and how does that compare with this year's allocation?

There have been reductions in housing allocations under both the Labour Government and this Government. The sale of council houses and of land will make significant additional moneys available not only this year but, in all probability, next year also.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is important that those moneys should become available to local authorities as soon as possible? What evidence has he that recalcitrant authorities, particularly after the offer notices have been sent out, are sending contracts and conveyance documents to would-be buyers?

That matter arises on a later question, but I assure my hon. Friend that about 12 per cent. of tenants in Wales, which is a significant proportion, have applied for the right to buy. We have fixed dates by which we expect local authorities to have dealt with those applications and sent out offer notices. Considerable progress has been made with sale completions, too.

Will the Minister confirm that, according to the figures in a Welsh Office publication, there are 25,000 people on the Welsh Office's so-called net waiting list and that, even with that figure, the housing programme in Wales has borne the heaviest share of public expenditure cuts imposed by the Government? If the profit from sales accrues to a local authority towards the end of the financial year, thereby making it extremely difficult for the local authority to use that money, will it be able to carry forward that money to the coming year?

The money is coming through now as sales are completed. The majority of local authorities have been surprised at the number of applications and the amount of private money coming in. The money is becoming available this year. The net receipts will also be available to those authorities next year, and they must recognise that they will be in continuing receipt of those moneys.