LibLink: Cllr Peter Thornton: Harold Macmillan built our house

Peter Thornton is the Liberal Democrat leader of South Lakeland Council. Their area includes Tim Farron’s Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency. Housing has long been one of the priorities of the Liberal Democrat administration. Peter writes for the Huffington Post comparing the current Conservative thinking on housing to that of their predecessors in the 1950s and 1960s. Harold Macmillan built his family home, he said, on the instructions of Winston Churchill:

This was a generation who knew that setting targets and making speeches was not enough to make things happen. Production, supply lines, labour forces, these were also needed to win wars and also to build the homes that we needed.

Macmillan made sure brickworks were at full production, he organised supplies of softwood from abroad and he divided the country into ten regions, each with it’s own targets. He realised that public housing, Council Houses as we all knew them, was the most efficient way to build homes quickly for the people who needed them.

Churchill said that the task would either make or break him, and added that, “Every humble home will bless your name if you succeed.”

Our home did just that. It was a three bedroom semi with a large garden in which our Dad was able to plant vegetables to help feed our family. The rooms were spacious and there was a bathroom and a WC – not to be taken for granted in those days.

Peter then looks at the less illustrious record of David Cameron’s administration:

It’s perfectly plain that this current bunch of Tory ministers believes that anyone who isn’t capable of owning their own home is simply “not up to it”. The simple mathematics of £9 an hour and its relationship to £250,000 “Starter Homes” seems beyond them. Did they not teach Maths at Eton? The cutting of Tax Credits to finance cuts in inheritance tax rather give the game away though, we are all expected to have inherited wealth to finance our house purchases. And so, the rich get richer whilst the poor continue to rent.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • @John Marriot “What is there not to like about council housing? It provided my parents with their only home after the Second World War. It’s so sad that, on many parts of the country, it has degenerated in the eyes of the public into what a local housing officer once described as “a stigmatised last resort”.”

    It’s a good question, so I’ll give an answer. In most places council housing was of utilitarian design, making it less than aesthetically pleasing. In the many years since the estates were built, there has been a social “sorting” effect (driven in the main in the last 40 years by comprehensive schools and the need to live in the “right” catchment to get into a “good” school – the tyranny of selection by house price), such that council estates have become the sink where the least well off have gravitated, priced out of anywhere else. Many, if not most, people are decent, but unfortunately a very few serial problem families will blight these estates such that no one who has any choice in the matter would want to live there.

  • Christopher Haigh 29th Oct '15 - 6:01pm

    Well said John Marriott. A lot of us in the post war generation were indebted to Harold Macmillan. The council housing provided us with great social stability from which many working class children prospered.

  • Most houses of the late 40’s early 50s would be deemed ‘utilitarian’ by today’s standard…However, at the time they were the height of luxury for most families…Even today, I believe most people in need of housing would much prefer an affordable utilitarian to an unaffordable smart home….

    Many of those ‘Right to Buy’ homes are now ‘Buy to let’ and making money for their new owners at the expense of the tenants/taxpayer…

  • I note none of you gentlemen have engaged with the far more pertinent point about the creation of sink estates via school catchment “selection by house price” driving up house prices, and the congregation of the very low income and problem families in virtual slums.

  • John Marriott & TCO – Yes one of the ‘benefits’ of the Thatcher “right to buy” was the breaking up of (some) council estates into mixed ownership estates. Unfortunately because it was totally demand driven, the effects were uneven and in some areas destructive as whole roads changed ownership as many realised they were looking a gift-horse in the mouth…

    The more recent ‘social’ housing planning ‘element’ obligation was in some ways an attempt to encourage the creation of a patchwork of ownership, but I suspect that it also has not really achieved.

    The problem moving forward will be creating appropriately mixed developments because with the numbers being talked about we could build entire towns of ‘social’ housing…

  • TCO I think the main reason we haven’t “engaged” with it is because it only has a grain of truth about it. There is a huge amount of prejudice in both schooling and housing matters. This has intensified in the last few years (I speak as one who grew up in an ordinary – but privately owned – house, with a mother who was very prejudiced against living in and those living in council houses). Having, as an adult lived in a variety of tenures, including council housing, I think I can make that comment accurately. We have allowed such as the Daily Mail to stigmatise this housing and its occupants. I would hope (and this thread is showing it at present) that most Lib Dems can resist such prejudice.

  • nigel hunter 29th Oct '15 - 8:55pm

    I came from the slums of Leeds . in the early 1950s the family moved to Seacroft. new council estate, it was a paradise. Yes, by todays standards very utilitarian but then heaven ,wide open spaces fresh air. Churchill a one time Liberal and Macmillan had been thru the war, with all it entailed. They were one nation people wanted a decent country for people, could that be why the Conservatives were respected for the decade? The 60s under Labour the rules for obtaining a Council House changed , negatively as it happened in hindsight, the rot set in. Today the great god is to own your own house you have to flog your guts out to maintain the mortgage ,which is a debt , to keep the banks in profit. I am a council house tenant, happy to be, with money in my pocket to spend on keeping the economy going I have no housing debt THE RIGHT TO BUY should be stopped The Conservative party of today is irrelevant to a forward looking country.

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