Hughes on Cameron’s council tenancies plans: “It is not a Liberal Democrat policy, it is not a coalition policy.”

Lib Dem Voice’s Sara Bedford reported here this morning her reaction to David Cameron’s suggestion that he wanted to look at fixed-term tenancies to help solve the issue of scarce council housing.

Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has been quick to make plain his outright opposition to the proposal, telling the Evening Standard’s Paul Waugh:

“The ideas put forward by David Cameron this week in no way represent the policy of the coalition and certainly do not represent the policy of the Liberal Democrats.

“We will not let anybody have their homes taken away. We must continue to suppport established and cohesive communities where people have the security of knowing that they will continue to have a home.”

Mr Hughes is convinced that the issue will now feature at the Lib Dem annual conference next month (in the form of condemnatory motions from the grass roots, I suspect).

“I’m sure that Liberal Democrats from all over the country will look forward to discussions with our coalition partners over these proposals and fully expressing their views. Labour floated this idea and quickly withdrew it because it had been badly thought out.”

He added that it was “perfectly proper” to have a debate about tenancies but warned the biggest priority was to build more homes.

Paul also has an interesting account of the behind-the-scenes discussions:

I’m told (not by the man himself, I stress) that Mr Hughes ‘exploded’ last night when he heard of the Cameron words.

He had first got wind of the controversial proposal recently when Andrew Stunnell flagged it up in the party hierarchy. He warned ministers that the party should ‘not touch this with a bargepole’ but it seems there was confusion as to whether Nick Clegg was alerted of the concerns.

Crucially, Hughes appears to have been assured that no announcement was going to be made on the subject until after discussions within the coalition.

It seems, therefore, that Mr Cameron was speaking purely in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the Coalition Government.

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46 Comments

  • Ah, of course. A “personal capacity.” Probably even stating views he’s held himself for a long time and ones which, to be fair, are consistent with a lot of Tory policy in the past. A bit like calling the Iraq war “illegal” then.

    So when will the flak head for Cameron….?

  • Jesus.

    Crucially, Hughes appears to have been assured that no announcement was going to be made on the subject until after discussions within the coalition. It seems, therefore, that Mr Cameron was speaking purely in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the Coalition Government.

    Is there any depth you won’t dive to to defend your de-facto Party leader?

    Utterly incredible.

  • Andrea Gill 4th Aug '10 - 2:18pm

    Grant Shapps clarified this on LBC last night & said that this does not affect existing tenants.

    He did a good job of cleaning up Cameron’s “mis step”.

  • It seems odd to suggest that Cameron is our de facto party leader when you either get virtually no (Labour) or no (Tory) vote on who the next leader will be in the two larger parties. Clegg’s always been far more of “our” leader than Cameron is to the Conservatives or Brown was to Labour. That’s not changed under the coalition. Plus, it’s a valid conclusion – if it’s not been talked over by the coalition yet, it’s not coalition policy, so Cameron was probably speaking personally, much like how Cable spoke about a Graduate Tax (I think?).

    Of course, this post will be responded to by people repeating the exact same point as the post above (Cuse) trying to inundate the comment box. Such is the internet.

  • James Bartlett 4th Aug '10 - 2:27pm

    I don’t get this issue one bit. What Cameron said (and I was listening to it all live) was that there’s a case to look at provision of social housing if circumstances change and perhaps a way to achieve that would be fixed term tenancies. Now it’s only the “left” (by that I mean labour and the left-leaning Lib Dems) and the gutter press who have taken that to meaning tenants will be “kicked out” of their homes. What it actually means is that at the end of the agreement it will most likely be renewed as a formality if a person’s circumstances aren’t that much different to when they got the house. If however, they now had more children, or perhaps grown up children who had left the home, there might be a case to suggest to that tenant that a more appropriate sized home in the social sector is available – larger or smaller. And if circumstances had changed in terms of new employment and reduced financial needs then I can’t see how it can be argued against suggesting that that tenant look for a home in the private rental sector given a reasonable length of notice. None of that can and would lead to people being “kicked out” of their homes and it’s just the usual rubbish trotted out by people who haven’t bothered to think about the idea save the fact that it’s a Tory one so it must be evil. I’m a Lib Dem voter (and always have been) and I’m all for the idea.

  • Stephen Almond 4th Aug '10 - 2:29pm

    Haha – what a refreshing contrast to this article: https://www.libdemvoice.org/social-housing-a-home-for-life-20562.html

    I’m glad Simon Hughes has the guts to say when he does disagree with the coalition.

  • @Andrea Gill..Grant Shapps clarified this on LBC last night & said that this does not affect existing tenants.
    So let me get this right,no new low cost housing,no more council houses but it will not affect existing tenants?

  • Andrea Gill 4th Aug '10 - 3:02pm

    @republica “So let me get this right,no new low cost housing,no more council houses but it will not affect existing tenants?”

    Not sure where you are getting the first two from, this year alone £0.5 billion were set aside mostly for investment in new housing. All this “ZOMG EVIL TORIES KILLING OFF COUNCIL HOUSING” scaremongering is ridiculous.

  • Ruth Bright 4th Aug '10 - 3:03pm

    My experience working as an advisor at an inner-city branch of Age Concern (in Brixton) and as an inner-city councillor (in Southwark) is that many older council tenants are more than happy to trade down to smaller properties in order to free up family-sized homes for others. The problem is the supply of appropriate housing for them to down-size to. If you are giving up your family home in your seventies/eighties you tend to want a pleasant, low-rise property with some kind of sheltered provision, not a grisly bedsit on the twelfth floor of a tower block which is all there is likely to be available.

    It is this kind of context which a Simon Hughes instinctively understands and a David Cameron does not.

  • I just love it when the schizophrenic nature of the LibDems is exposed for all to see.

  • And so the Conservative muscle-flexing and bullying begins.

    Those who thought the low Polling was irrelevant now see what it enables Cameron to do.
    He does not fear any Lib Dem ruffled feathers because he thinks there is nowhere for the Lib Dems to go.
    Caught in his trap the Lib Dems will be helpless as Cameron keeps pushing all those little Thatcherite reforms he either left ‘unclear’ in the coalition document or just ‘forgot’ to mention.

    If the coalition agreement is just a piece of paper Cameron can treat with contempt, then what exactly is the point ?

  • Rabi Martins 4th Aug '10 - 3:17pm

    Simon Hughes is right to make it clear that Liberal Democrats will not endorse any action by David Cameron’s Tories which is threatens the housing rights of the the most vulnerable in our society.
    There is however a strong case for ensuring that council housing is used more effectively. This means looking at succession rights. It also means finding ways to ensure that one or two people do not continue to live in a house that was allocated to them when they were a family of a size that required 3 or 4 bedrooms. Once the chidlren have grown and flown their housing needs should be re-assessed and the tenants required to take up smaller accomodation and free the larger accomodation for families that need them.

  • If simon hughes only heard of this last night, it is very worrying.
    What other bomb shells coming?

  • @Andrea Gill said ..Not sure where you are getting the first two from, this year alone £0.5 billion were set aside mostly for investment in new housing.
    you naughty lib dem,you are trying to muddy the waters again with your ministry of truth statements,the £0.5 billion is for 3 purposes FE colleges, apprenticeships and housing.The thing is that there will be no rda’s to oversee where and how the money is spent so it will vanish into thin air.

  • The inheritance is often between spouses when one of them dies. So yeah, let’s kick widows out their houses and the communities they have lived in all of their lives. If these people are not clever enough to have got a job in banking then screw them I say.

  • @AndrewR

    That seem to be the consensus argument of the Orange Tories.

  • Walter West 4th Aug '10 - 4:20pm

    I don’t always agree with Simon Hughes, and I do not on this occassion, but he does at least tend to say what he thinks, rather than what he thinks he ought to think.

    In any event, I agree with David Cameron’s suggestion in this instance, and I disagree with Simon Hughes. I think he (DC) and Grant Shapps have been very clear: No-one with a Council house or Housing Association house will lose their home under this. That is fair, equitable and sensible.

    Future tennants may have fixed-terms that could be used to prevent tennants who become very rich from preventing people in need from getting a house. That is also fair, equitable and sensible.

    I know of some people who have needed social housing and who had to wait years to get houses, meaning they had to stay with friends, be put up in hotels etc… which wasn’t ideal, wasn’t fair on children and wasn’t cost-effective, but have gone on to become quite well off. Some have moved out, but others have decided to keep their houses, thus preventing people who are in the same situation that they used to be from getting a house. This simply isn’t fair and it cloggs up the system as worthy applicants struggle to get the help they need.

    I have no problem with this policy per se. Clearly we’d all like to see the details, but the principle is fine in my humble opinion.

  • Thanks to Simon Hughes for opposing this horrible idea. Is David Cameron prepared to take a wage cut and downsize his house?

  • @Andrea Gill..Grant Shapps clarified this on LBC last night & said that this does not affect existing tenants.

    That is until the tenant wishes to downsize (or upsize) then the only agreement offered would be short term only, what a great incentive for existing tenants to stay exactly where they are, after all I would if I were in that position, it’s probably the only bit of security they have. this idea would only serve to break up communities and loosen social cohesion, if there is a lack of social housing and we all know there is and why there is, why don’t we build more of them instead of pushing people into the private sector further putting strain on their finances. or on the tax payer by higher housing benefit payments (sorry my bad, there will be a cap on that, silly me)

    I also heard Grant Shapps, he also said that the tax payer is subsidising each council tenant to the sum of £35.pounds each week, this I can’t understand unless of course he means that the average social housing tenant pays less than the ‘going rate’ for his property to the tune of £35 a week than he would in the private sector. but isn’t social housing supposed to be non- profit making and should, in theory, pay for itself with no burden to the tax payer, maybe this is just the usual Tory trick of demonising one section of people to get what they want.

    Also I heard him say that they will set up a national register for the ‘first time’ to enable tenants to move nationally,
    Yet another untruth, there already is one.

  • Peter Venables 4th Aug '10 - 4:28pm

    There is obviously some merit in this idea, but the problems this policy could cause are very worrying.
    Combined with reductions in housing benefits, I think we are on the edge of creating a very dangerous situation.
    What do people like Cameron know about these things, he’s a former PR man for a tv company. Is anybody joining the dots
    of all these ideas. Add to this the effects of all the cuts and the unemployment, and i fear we will be on the cusp of serious social problems.

  • Peter Venables wrote –
    There is obviously some merit in this idea, but the problems this policy could cause are very worrying.
    Combined with reductions in housing benefits, I think we are on the edge of creating a very dangerous situation.
    What do people like Cameron know about these things, he’s a former PR man for a tv company. Is anybody joining the dots
    of all these ideas. Add to this the effects of all the cuts and the unemployment, and i fear we will be on the cusp of serious social problems.

    I couldn’t agree with you more

  • I know it can be hard for coalition partners to keep each other informed, but does Mr Cameron not even speak to Conservative members of his own cabinet?

    DC: But there is a question mark about whether, in future, should we be asking, actually, when you are given a council home, is it for fixed period, because maybe in five or 10 years you will be doing a different job and be better paid and you won’t need that home, you will be able to go into the private sector.

    IDS: “If you are unemployed and you come from a family that is unemployed, all you can see when you think about work is risk. It is a real risk because for all the efforts you make, the rewards are very minimal and in some cases none at all.”

    Does Cameron not think that accepting work and losing your home may be considered a bit of a risk?

    (By the way – being opposed to taking away people’s homes because they are not as poor as they used to be, doesn’t mean you don’t think it is important to look at ways of tacking under-occupancy. I agree entirely with Ruth Bright that there are positive ways to do this.)

  • George W. Potter 4th Aug '10 - 5:07pm

    I don’t see what the problem is per se as long as it is sensibly implemented. We can’t go on selling off council houses as it reduces the homes available for people on the waiting list and nor does it make sense for someone to have a council house for life if their circumstances change and they no longer need one.

  • George W. Potter wrote –
    We can’t go on selling off council houses as it reduces the homes available for people

    We could always use the money raised by selling council homes to err.. I dunno… build more perhaps,
    Is it truly realistic to have a population who are unable to buy a home because they are on min/low wages permanently in private low grade rented accommodation with all the associated problems that go with it and there are many (I won’t even mention quality of life). some may say there’s nothing wrong in that but then again they are probably a Tory landlords

  • In my post above I was referring to the single/couple physically ‘abled’ with no children whose only ‘need’ is to have a decent wage, a wage which would enable them to buy a house which they can call a home and not somewhere in bedsitterland

  • “What it actually means is that at the end of the agreement it will most likely be renewed as a formality if a person’s circumstances aren’t that much different to when they got the house. If however, they now had more children, or perhaps grown up children who had left the home, there might be a case to suggest to that tenant that a more appropriate sized home in the social sector is available – larger or smaller.”

    Which is fine so long as the review process takes in to account due social and psychological issues. It isn’t fair to give someone a place to make home, to help them build their lives, then to ask them to move if they have managed to do so and their environment is part of that life.

    Which raises a further psychological issue. People who have a house/flat/whatever, who have bought it or otherwise know it is theirs or as long as they want it (not however long somebody else feels they need it) are more likely to feel that they have a home, to put down roots, care about their community and neighbourhood, and generally get on withtheir lives. The benefit of this to a persons sense of self worth should not be overlooked when discussing these issues.

    So in short, yes I feel there probably is a worthwhile discussion to be had, but the issue is far more complex and needs to take a lot more in to account than pure physical needs.

  • Rabi Martins 4th Aug '10 - 6:00pm

    @ AndrewR – No Andrew that is not what is advocated. Every care must be taken to ensure that the new accomodation offered is within the same catchment area – if that is indeed what the tenenat wants. Who is to say that the tenant may not wish to move out to another area ? No one should be forced to take up accomodation that is inappropriate for physical or psychological reasons.

  • So basically Rabi Martins you are calling for the status quo? At present people are encouraged to give up larger houses if they are no longer in need of such large accommodation, but no one is forced to do this. At present you can only pass on your tenancy if the recipient has lived with you for a certain number of years, and has no other property.

  • No one should be FORCED to move from their home, period, including the fit and able-bodied whose only ‘crime’ is to be poor and unable to buy a home, the only answer is to build more social housing and encourage social responsibility.

  • George W. Potter 4th Aug '10 - 6:21pm

    @Nige “We could always use the money raised by selling council homes to err.. I dunno… build more perhaps”

    Yes, that would be fine were it not for the fact that the homes are often sold for below cost price. This results in a net loss to the taxpayer and means that there will be less money to provide council housing for other families.

  • George W. Potter 4th Aug '10 - 6:25pm

    “No one should be FORCED to move from their home, period, including the fit and able-bodied whose only ‘crime’ is to be poor and unable to buy a home, the only answer is to build more social housing and encourage social responsibility.”

    Not even if their tenancy agreement has come to an end?

    With regards to the matter in hand, my understanding of the policy is that only those who no longer need council housing would be forced to move. Nothing wrong with that I say, provided that they genuinely don’t need it any more. For example, consider a couple who get a four bedroom council house because they have three children. Well, that is perfectly right and proper but, once the children have grown up and moved out of the house, why should the couple stay in the house when their might be another family who desperately need a four bedroom property. Why shouldn’t the original couple be moved into a smaller council house?

  • David Allen 4th Aug '10 - 7:00pm

    “Crucially, Hughes appears to have been assured that no announcement was going to be made on the subject until after discussions within the coalition.

    It seems, therefore, that Mr Cameron was speaking purely in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the Coalition Government.”

    Cameron is getting a lot of good press for speaking his mind. But that is a bit dangerous when you are the Prime Minister. To criticise Pakistan was a good idea. To go to India and make that criticism was not!

    Now Cameron is speaking out again, and this time it looks like an attempt to bounce the Lib Dems into supporting another lurch to the right. I wonder whether Nick knew it would happen, and I wonder whether Nick approved.

  • @George
    That’s where the social responsibility comes into play, I am a housing association tenant with my wife, we have 4 children, two of which have gone on to university leaving two at home, we were in a for bed property and we have just recently downsized using the national register that MR Shapps says doesn’t exist and are now in a 3 bed but we fully expect to downsize again in a few years time.
    however if this ever comes into force the next time we move we are only offered a short term agreement I will not except it and I’ll stay where I am with a secure long term tenancy.
    The reason I have a such a tenancy is that after an accident in the nineties I became disabled, lost my job and my home, but after several operations I retrained and returned work but with severely limited earning capacity which is currently just above min wage. as you can probably guess I have absolutely no hope of entering the housing market again so am I to except that in my later years I will reside in a private rented bedsit with an insecure tenancy instead of a secure 1/2 bed home. so I will say again the only answer to the social housing shortage is to build more social housing

  • David Allen 4th Aug '10 - 7:08pm

    “Why shouldn’t the original couple be moved into a smaller council house?”

    Read Ruth Bright’s post above. Because the fear is that they will be moved into a grotty bedsit in a tower block, where they are afraid of the neighbours, and they are getting too old and frail to cope with their antisocial behaviour. Encouraging people to move is one thing, but forcing them to do so is not exactly a liberal policy!

  • When are the Liberal Democrats going to wake up to the fact that the Tories are doing exactly what they want, are more right-wing than even Thatcher was, and that the coalition agreement is as worthless as the piece of paper which Chamberlain signed at Munich in 1938?

  • George W. Potter 4th Aug '10 - 10:19pm

    @nige

    I take your point. I still tend to favour the principle behind the proposed council tenancy alterations but they would be come a moot point if there was sufficient social housing in the first place. And I can completely agree with you that we need to build more. In fact, I’d love to see a pledge to build more social housing in the next Lib Dem manifesto.

  • Isn’t it time we heard from Nick what he knew about this and what his views are on this?

  • Peter Venables 4th Aug '10 - 10:41pm

    I thought after the election result, that the consensus was the electorate wasn’t convinced by anyone.
    Mr Cameron seems to have forgotten what the result actually was, and though i am sure many LibDem members/voters may agree with how things are going, i am pretty certain many don’t.
    If he want’s to float ideas he should speak to Clegg who should speak to his MP’s at the very least.

  • We ought to have a thread “How right wing are the Tories leading the coalition?” and “How right wing are the Lib Dem members of the Government?” This would enable a debate on the underlying issues that keep getting raised both on this thread and many of the others at present. It is no longer any good that the standard Lib Dem line of “Not right, not left, but forward”. This will be controversial, but there are identifiable right and left wing characteristics, especially in the economic sphere. It seems particularly apt to investigate this at this time, in the light of the fact that the way the financial “crisis” evolved challenged key aspects of the Thatcherite and post – Thatcherite economic settlement. NuLab were of course a party to that settlement, which many Lib Dems, along with much of the centre and left of the Labour Party, the Greens etc have challenged. Bearing all this in mind, it is worth looking at coalition policy, where it comes from, and what Lib Dems generally think about it. Times change, of course, but there would be no doubt that the Liberal Party of the 60s and 70s would be horrified to see how the party had evolved (as would many of the founding spirits of the Lib Dems in the late 80s – from both parties). It just seems odd that a Tory party campaigning on a platform of “change”, and a Lib Dem party having much support from those who have persistently challenged the new consensus seem to have fallen so easily for the corporate and “globalist” position. Why?

  • Ooh, those evil Lib Dems not building social housing:

    http://www.stockporthomes.org/main.cfm?type=LANTERNCLOSEBRINNY (hint: LD run council)

    Ooh, those wonderful Labour people building social housing:

    http://rockylorusso.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/labours-broken-promises-in-camden-1-2/ (hint: Lab council)

  • Steve Hicks 5th Aug '10 - 4:43pm

    Andrew George, the Lib Dem MP for St Ives constituency in Cornwall believes the PM’s comments show the ‘great distinction’ between the two coalition partners. He believes the logical conclusion to the PM’s comments being a more unequal society, especially with housing. Having a constituency beset with second homes and poor housing choice for local people, you can hardly blame him for finding the PM’s vision of a more unequal society ‘unacceptable.’

  • Betty Harris 5th Aug '10 - 9:56pm

    The allocation of Council Housing needs to be investigated. I know of a millionaire allocated a flat, a headmaster who occupies one and is thus able to let the home he owns and a son who inherited his mothers lovely flat in Islington though he didn’t leave with her. It gave him scope to let his former residence.

    Let’s remember Frank Field’s wise words “Owner occupation is the way out of the poverty trap” and help council tenants who could buy in the private sector to do so. When new social housing is built we must make it a mixed community, part rented, part owner-occupied. Council estates seemed a good idea at the time but have proved to be problematic.

  • Betty Harris 5th Aug '10 - 9:58pm

    Correction -“he didn’t LIVE with her.”

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