IT seemed bizarre when I read the comments in your paper from a Conservative housing minister that it was Labour to blame for the lack of affordable and council homes.

What planet has he been living on this last 35 to 40 years?

No party or government can escape the blame for the appalling situation we are in with housing. The rot set in back in the 1980s, and has continued in one form or another ever since.

It was only in the last couple of years in government that Labour started to make some long overdue changes to the "tax on rent", and restrictions on traditional council house building, which thankfully the coalition government continued.

That said, in late 2015 the new Conservative government came out with some appalling proposals that, if enacted, would have meant that every council house in Bournemouth and Poole would have had to be sold off on the private market when they became vacant.

Thankfully those proposals were dropped, but not before many housing professionals decided that enough was enough, and council tenants in the know, who had the option of "right to buy" and a discount available to them, decided there was absolutely no point in keeping their council house available for future generations, as they were going to be disposed of under the new legislation.

Though the problem escalated in the 1980s, Labour councils back in the 1970s have to take their share of the blame.

The "tax on rent", which I highlighted as far back as 1990, was introduced so that tenants in places like Poole, where the housing revenue account (the money tenants paid in rent) made a surplus (£3.5million a year in Poole), had money stripped away by government to pay back the debts of councils that had artificially held their rents down and eventually got into difficulty.

Just imagine the difference that £3.5m every year would have made if it had been put into building replacement council houses.

Instead of playing politics and launching ill thought-out initiatives, the government could use their resources to bolster new building of genuinely affordable council houses, help create hostels and small flats for the homeless that would not qualify for the new council homes, and give local councils the power to insist on a percentage of affordable homes on all developments – like the 1,200 that were going to be provided originally on the site between Old Poole and the Twin Sales bridges, rather than them pandering to the whims of developers that want cheap and easy green belt land to build more housing for pure profit.

People who may be "just about managing", or worse, might get back on their feet with these changes. Surely we deserve better than what is on offer here in 2019.


Former Poole councillor and housing vice-chair, Fraser Road, Poole