South Ribble is the second worst performing authority in Lancashire when it comes to building affordable housing, official statistics show.
In its alternative budget proposals for 2015/16, the borough’s opposition Labour Party said that releasing more than a million pounds in funds generated from the sale of old council houses would be a step towards resolving the problem.
“While families in our borough are being hit by the bedroom tax and cannot move as there are no smaller properties to go to, it cannot be right that we continue to hold this money in our bank account”Coun Matthew Tomlinson, Labour group leader
Coun Cameron Crook presented figures which showed that between March 2012 and March 2013, only 40 affordable houses were built in South Ribble, despite planning permission being granted for 151 affordable houses in that time.
Between March 2011 and March 2014, a total of 330 approvals were granted, with just 99 of those being built.
“This is a serious problem,” Coun Crook said.
“It is a complex situation but something radical needs doing – we need to build more affordable homes.
“Our proposals will go some way to achieving that.”
Coun Paul Foster, shadow member for finance, said: “A Labour authority will actively bid to take us from one of the worst performing to the best performing in Lancashire when it comes to the provision of affordable housing.
“We will immediately open up dialogue with housing associations with a view to expending the £1.1m of Preserved Right to Buy precepts that are currently held by this council.
“It is an absolute disgrace that the Tory administration has done nothing with this money for the past eight years.
“We would also reiterate that this sum does not form part of the £11.6m General Reserve Fund held by this council – it is held separately and so we are offering a £1.1m investment that will have no impact on either the Revenue Budget or General Reserves of this authority, but will have a huge impact for residents.”
Coun Matthew Tomlinson added: “The release of the £1m to support the provision of affordable housing is seen by our group as a moral issue.
“That money was given to this council as a direct result of the sale of former council houses.
“While families in our borough are being hit by the bedroom tax and cannot move as there are no smaller properties to go to, it cannot be right that we continue to hold this money in our bank account.
“Our proposal would free up that £1m to contribute to the delivery of much-needed smaller, affordable homes.”
Coun Cliff Hughes, the council’s cabinet member for strategic planning and housing, said: “Affordable housing is a problem and we need more, but there are two things you need to deliver more affordable houses.
“The first is the developers to come forward and build – we rely on the developers to start putting the bricks down.
“Next, the housing associations need to hav funds in place to buy those houses from the developer – it’s not a freebie.”
Conservative councillor Warren Bennett added: “The Labour group band this figure around about £1m for affordable houses, which sounds massive, but that would only be enough for about 10 houses.
“And to make a commitment that every development needs to have a minimum of 30 per cent affordable homes actually means that we wouldn’t see any developments coming forward. It’s not realistic.”