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Council House Sales

Volume 14: debated on Monday 30 November 1981

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the progress made by housing authorities in Wales with the sale of council houses to those tenants who have applied to buy them; and what is now the average period of waiting between the application to buy and the completion of sale.

We shall not be satisfied until all tenants who wish to exercise their right to buy have been able to complete their purchases. It is not possible to estimate the average waiting time, but approximately 12,000 tenants submitted applications to buy before 31 December 1980, and approximately 4,000 sales had been completed by 30 September 1981, almost 2,500 of them in the June to September quarter.

In view of the difficulties that certain local authorities appear to be experiencing in implementing the legislation, will my hon. Friend consider the possibility of fixing a maximum period between the receipt of a valid application to buy and completion of sale?

As my hon. Friend knows, we have asked local authorities to ensure that any backlog in the issue of offer notices for applications made before 3 April 1981 is cleared by the end of this year. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his suggestion, because we are actively considering the idea of fixing targets for the completion of sales.

In Wales, what is the average amount received from the sale of a council house? What does it cost a local authority to replace such a house to meet the problems of the homeless? Do the Government intend to do anything to meet the difference that faces ratepayers, local authorities and council house tenants?

I can give the hon. Gentleman the figures. The average receipt is about £8,000. Of course it costs more to build a new house, but, as I said earlier, there are resources available to the local authorities which come from the sale of council houses and they must use them to improve their housing provision. New build is not the only answer. It is possible to improve old properties and to build for low cost. Various other initiatives are also open to local authorities.

How long does it take the Department to process applications from local authorities which wish to purchase from the private sector?

Municipalisation and purchase of properties by local authorities are allowed on only limited occasions, and obviously they require consideration by the Welsh Office. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the average time required for such consideration, but I assure him that the Welsh Office acts as quickly as possible, depending on the individual circumstances.

I remind my hon. Friend that, of the 4,000 houses that have been sold in Wales, more than 1,000 have been sold in the Vale of Glamorgan in my constituency. As the Vale of Glamorgan is administered by a comparatively small authority, and as larger authorities have lower figures, is that not evidence that the larger authorities must be dragging their feet.

The position is not quite as my hon. Friend suggests. I commend the authority that is responsible for the Vale of Glamorgan, but, as my hon. Friend knows, no authority in Wales is refusing to carry out the Government's council house sales policy. There is activity, which has increased, throughout Wales. From this last quarter onwards, the rate of completions will be accelerating.