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Council Rental Income

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

7. What steps he is taking to allow local authorities to retain rental income from new council homes; and if he will make a statement. (284343)

On Tuesday last week, I made a statement to the House confirming that from that day councils would be able to keep in full all the rental income and capital receipts that come from any new homes that they build.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that the changes that he has made would allow Leeds city council to regenerate one of the most deprived housing estates in the north of England—the Beckhill estate in my constituency? Will he agree at some later stage to visit that estate to see it for himself?

I will certainly see whether I can fix a date—although my diary secretary will not be pleased that I am saying this—to visit the estate and accompany my hon. Friend in doing so. I hope that he will give every encouragement to the Tory and Liberal-led Leeds council to bid for the funds to build the new homes that people in Leeds need. I have been encouraged by the fact that it is one of the 20 local authorities that have signalled their intent to bid in the first round for the money that we will make available from the end of July.

Does the Minister not accept that these changes—which, by the way, I warmly welcome, as I believe in meaningful local government with a full range of responsibilities—have come too late to prevent what was then Macclesfield borough council from being forced to transfer its housing stock to a housing trust? Will he ensure that in future housing remains within the democratic domain so that it is democratically accountable and local people can decide where houses are built, instead of leaving it to an unelected, somewhat bureaucratic organisation?

I thought for a moment that we were going to re-run some of the arguments that the hon. Gentleman and I have had about local government reorganisation in Cheshire. The point that he makes is, in different terms, consistent with what I explained to the House earlier—that part of the purpose of the changes that I have announced is to remove the bias in the system that prevents councils, and has done for more than two decades, from building in order to meet the needs in their area. From this point on, councils will be better able, on a fairer basis, to build in the same way that housing associations have been able to do in recent years.