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Decent Homes Programme

Volume 493: debated on Tuesday 2 June 2009

Between 1997-98 and 2008-09, the overall capital sum provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government and its predecessor Departments for capital investment in council-owned housing stock was £25.8 billion.

I thank the Minister for that reply, but does he not agree with me and many others in this place and elsewhere who say that if the fourth option had been agreed to, the sum would have been spent more efficiently, effectively and quickly, and to the greater benefit of our tenants and certainly taxpayers, who, of course, ultimately own the housing stock?

But I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree with me that when we came to power in 1997, there was a backlog of about £19 billion in council house maintenance and repairs. We have had to do something about that. One of the true successes of this Government has been the massive investment in a whole generation of social housing. He is right to say that local authorities have a key role to play, and not only in providing the broad strategic assessment of what housing is needed in their area; they have a direct delivery role. In answers to previous questions, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing has said that we are removing disincentives for local authorities, providing additional money in the Budget and elsewhere, and making sure that councils start building council houses again.

The decent homes initiative has transformed social housing in my constituency, but my hon. Friend is aware that the losers among residents are leaseholders who have bought properties that are now subject to major works bills, in some cases of £60,000—works that, in many cases, the leaseholders are totally unable to pay for. Will my hon. Friend assure me that he is, once again, urgently reviewing whether special, targeted help can be given to leaseholders who have, through no fault of their own, ended up owing bills of tens of thousands of pounds?

I am very sympathetic with regard to the scenario that my hon. Friend sets out. She has played a wonderful role in hassling me to death, frankly, on the issue—and she was right to do so. It is important to ensure that we provide targeted help. There is a range of powers in place. The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 provided interest-free loans and deferred payments for leaseholders in the situation that she describes, but I am continuing to look at the issue, and I will keep her informed.