Opinon: Lib Dems promise houses – and deliver

In 2007, two key milestones were marked in the Vale of White Horse District Council. First, we celebrated the completion of the 1500th affordable home built in the district since the Liberal Democrats took control in 1995. We also celebrated winning a fourth term in office with a thumping majority. Those in the know might suggest that these two milestones were linked.

The Vale’s original housing stock was sold off by the ruling Conservatives in 1995 at a time when housing development in the district was at a standstill because of the Government’s restrictions on investment in new homes and the Council’s own financial constraints. The housing stock was decreasing in size because of Right to Buy, the waiting list was growing and we could do nothing more than reluctantly support the Tory plan to go for large scale voluntary transfer (LSVT) of the housing stock to private social landlords to wipe out the Council’s debts and gain a significant income.

The sale of the Vale’s housing in March 1995 gave the council a capital receipt of around £54 million, of which £19 million was available under the government’s restrictions to enable Social Housing to be developed. The Tories did not want to commit this money to new housing and it was only in the face of pressure from us that the full £19m was committed.

In May the Council had all-up elections and the LDs went into the polls promising 550 new affordable homes in five years. When the votes were counted the LDs found ourselves with 17 new Councillors, control of the Vale for the first time and the Tories were rather dismayed to find themselves with a lot more free time. We confirmed our commitment to build at least 550 new homes in five years, funded by the nice little ‘nest egg’ the Tories had expected to have at their disposal after the election.

Our original target of 550 houses was honoured and exceeded and by 2002 the major milestone of 1000 new homes was reached. During this period, the Vale also planned and built a foyer to provide young people who have experienced difficult circumstances with accommodation and training for up to 2 years. The foyer was built in the heart of the Vale’s main town, Abingdon and it opened in 2004.

The new dwellings have been built across the district, from major developments in our main towns to small, local developments in villages. Perhaps the most notable recent development was in the village which is home to the leader of the Vale’s opposition – right opposite her house, to be exact. Having reacted to the initial plans with less than gushing enthusiasm she has now commended the quality of the housing built and accepted that it has enhanced the area considerably.

We continued to build new housing and by 2007 the number of new affordable homes in the Vale had reached 1500. The Council still has a financial commitment to building housing included in its budget. This funding is available to ‘top up’ any schemes which may not otherwise be affordable so we can ensure that the number of new houses built in the district continues to exceed over 100 a year.

This funding is being squeezed somewhat by our budget constraints but the LD Group retains its original commitment to provide more new affordable homes every year. In our recently adopted Local Plan we set a target of 50% affordable homes over a certain threshold but the government’s Local Plan Inspector marked this down to 40%. So much for the government’s commitment to housing in the South East…

Liberal Democrats have shown what can be done in one small, cash-strapped district when there is a clear commitment to providing high quality, affordable housing. To coin a phrase, it’s not rocket science.

Andy Crick is the Lib Dem Group Assistant on the Vale of White Horse District Council.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Toby Keynes
    @Brad Barrows: "trust that when this issue comes to a vote, it will be a free vote rather than a whipped vote. Issues of conscience such as Assisted Dying, Cap...
  • Nonconformistradical
    Iain Donaldson "When people voted in the European Referendum to take back power, they knew what they were voting for" Did they really?...
  • David Craddock
    The motion passed at conference is hugely important as it sets us apart from both Labour and Tories both of which are very centralised in their approach. Linkin...
  • John Marriott
    @Justin And I’ll go further… Politicians always promise the Earth. They never concede that they might be wrong. In fact, they rarely accept it when they...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Andrew, You're right that Brexit wasn't an act of solidarity with Greece or Syriza but it should have been a much bigger factor for the left than it was. U...