New Council homes get underway in Lewisham

82% of Londoners believe we are in the midst of a Housing Crisis and with prices and rents rising and the backlog of homes need getting bigger each year action is needed. One of the things London Councils including Lewisham are doing is building new homes themselves.

Yesterday, I handed over a site where the first six new homes will be built. It is a run down garage site which has been a long term problem. Building new homes on it solves that problem as well as providing accommodation for six families at genuinely affordable rents.

New Homes, Better Places - Mercator Road - Feb 2014 (small)

These six are the first of 250 new homes the Council will deliver by 2017. We’re able to do this thanks to reforms which began under John Healey, the last Labour Housing Minister. By building them directly, we’re able to deliver the larger family homes that are most needed by those on the housing waiting list.

I hope the Council will be able to build many more new homes than 250. If I am re-elected in May I will be focused on building more homes, tackling rogue landlords and rip off letting agents, and creating jobs and apprenticeships in the building industry. This will be done despite the policies of a Tory-led Government and Tory Mayor of London. 

Council Tax Frozen for 2014/15

I agreed to freeze council tax for next year at last night’s Mayor and Cabinet. This is the third time in the last four years that council tax has been frozen. People in Lewisham are being hit by the cost of living crisis. By freezing council tax, we are doing our bit to help families struggling with their bills.

But freezing council tax is done at a difficult time for the Council. Since May 2010 the Council has had it’s budget slashed by £82 million because of the Coalition Government’s cuts. Their failed austerity policies mean that they are now expecting us to find a further £95m of savings by 2018. Our budget has already been cut by 30%. These extra savings means we have to save a further £1 for every £3 from our current net budget.

We continue to try wherever possible to reduce our budget by improving the way we do things, driving harder bargains in the services we contract out, and working in partnership with others to save money without affecting front line services. If I am re-elected in May, I am determined that we will continue to protect the things people value most. But there will inevitably be some very tough decisions ahead. 

London’s Housing Crisis

Polling from London Councils has revealed that 82% of Londoners think we are in the midst of a housing crisis. How to tackle the problem is a key issue for every local authority in London.

Government simply isn’t doing enough. House building is at the lowest level since 1924 and rents in London are increasing by around 10% a year. I have consistently argued that the simplest way of increasing housing supply is to remove the artificial borrowing cap on local authorities.

Councils across the county have taken advantage of changes which began under the last Labour government, which gave them extra capacity to build more homes. But we want to build more. If London boroughs were able to borrow against their existing assets, this could, by 2021, release funds for an extra 14,000 homes in the Capital.

Labour London councils are committed to solving the crisis. Collectively, we have launched a new campaign and committed to taking the following actions to tackle the issue:

  • Build more genuinely affordable homes
  • Tackle rogue landlords and rip-off letting agencies
  • Build more homes for London’s growing population
  • Bring empty homes back into use
  • Create jobs and apprenticeships in the building industry
  • Labour will repeal the Bedroom Tax

In Lewisham we have committed to building a minimum of 250 new council homes in the next five years and are already taking action to improve the private rented sector. If re-elected, housing will remain one of my main priorities. It’s essential that we tackle this crisis now before it is too late.