Behind the times: LibDems' launch campaign for something that was agreed a year ago!
The LibDems in Portsmouth have been left red faced after it was revealed that their demands for affordable homes to be developed through a City Council-owned company were in fact already the council's policy and planning applications for three schemes have already been submitted!
In an e-mail to residents, LibDem group leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, calls for '…. the City Council to investigate this [the building of new homes through a company] urgently for the benefit of local families and the local economy. ' , the idea being that the council can borrow cheaply and that using a separate company overcomes the right-to-buy, which makes developing new property uneconomic.
Yet permission to do exactly that was agreed by the Full Council on 17th March 2015, when councillors agreed to progress developments on three sites in Leigh Park for affordable housing and on 19th July 2016, when Full Council authorised the creation of a council-owned company to manage developments on behalf of the authority.
With three schemes for 95 units submitted to Havant Borough Council in May and the company structure already in place, ruling Conservatives have suggested the LibDems have lost the plot. City Council Housing boss, Cllr Steve Wemyss said "I welcome support for the administration's policies from any quarter, but it does seem odd for Cllr Vernon-Jackson to launch a campaign for something that has already been agreed. Perhaps he has just forgotten what he's voted on, but with the last piece of the jigsaw only being slotted into place a couple of weeks ago, that seems a bit of a stretch."
"We all get things wrong from time to time and if that is what has happened here and he admits it, then fine. If he proceeds with his campaign however, then I am afraid it will look like a cynical attempt to take credit for someone else solving a problem that he did nothing about during ten years in office."
PRESS RELEASE ENDS
Press Release Notes and original email sent from Portsmouth Liberal Democrats
The three schemes were all submitted on 3rd May 2016.
Kingsclere Avenue, 30 flats, 8 houses. Havant council planning reference number APP/16/00492
Blendworth Crescent, 20 houses and 28 flats (https://planningpublicaccess.havant.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=DCAPR_238020), Havant council reference number APP/16/00464
Holybourne Road, 5 houses and 4 flats. Havant reference APP/16/00465
Authorisation of the development of land in Havant. Decision made in Full Council on 17th March 2015
In principle decision to create a property development company taken by Full Council on 12th July 2016
The e-mail sent by Gerald Vernon-Jackson today (28th July)
Lib Dem councillors in Portsmouth are calling for the City Council to produce a massive investment in the building of new homes at “social rents” to allow local families to rent at prices they can afford. Currently there are 1,563 households on the council house waiting list. Many families can wait years to get a property as the City Council has been forced to sell off over 16,000 council properties. The City Council has invested over £40million in buying commercial property in the Midlands and the West Country (eg a Waitrose in Somerset for £14million) by borrowing money cheaply through the Public Works Loan Board. The Lib Dems now want the City council to do the same by investing in housing, but this should be in Portsmouth or other estates the City Council owns such as Leigh Park. This would be done by investing through a whole owned council company. This allows the council to borrow and invest much more cheaply than private developers are able to do. All developments would need to pay back the investment and the interest on the loans. Our enquiries show that building a mixture of properties for rent with some rented at full market rent means that other properties can be rented out at a “social rent” which is affordable to local families on lower incomes. These new homes would not be subject to right to buy. The first aim should be to house as many families as possible from the housing waiting list. Changes by the Government after the 2015 General Election have caused a significant slow down in the building of housing by councils and housing associations. Since the referendum results there has been a significant slow down in the private housing construction industry. If the city council did move into the business of building housing for rent they could reduce the waiting list, reduce their spend on accommodating homeless families (£128,000 spent last year by Portsmouth City Council), make a profit and help keep the local construction industry and the local economy alive. Possible sites that could be investigated could be: land that the City Council owns north of the old Tricorn site that is no longer needed for the Northern Quarter development, Brunel House on the Hard (via a Compulsory Purchase Order, as it has been derelict for many years), Tipner and land in Leigh Park which has redundant garages on it. Lib Dem councillors are asking the City Council to investigate this urgently for the benefit of local families and the local economy. They will have the full support of the Lib Dem councillors in doing so. Do you think this is a good idea? I'd like to hear your views. Please just 'reply' to this email. Best wishes, Gerald Vernon-Jackson