Councils could be just days away from Right To Buy reform

But no hint from government if LGA campaign to boost council housebuilding has paid off through the brought-forward Spending Review.


Councils should know next week if they’ve got the Right To Buy (RTB) reforms the LGA has been fighting for to boost housebuilding.

The LGA has urged government to reform RTB through the Spending Review that’s now been brought forward to 4th September.

A key element of reform is councils’ ability to keep 100% of RTB receipts and set discounts locally.

Initial outlines of what could be coming don’t reference RTB reform, with the Review widely pitched as an ‘election special’ gallery play.

Last week, 24housing reported the LGA as going ‘gloves off’ over council housebuilding – warning the government that plans for thousands of new homes are at risk unless RTB is reformed in the Review.

Last year, councils built more homes than they have for a quarter of a century, with latest LGA stats showing councils in England alone directly built 2,560.

That’s the highest since 1992/3 when councils built 2,580 homes.

But the number of new council homes being built is not seen as keeping keep pace with those sold under RTB, with the scheme said to be restricting councils from replacing homes sold.

Stats suggest the number of homes being sold under RTB continues to dwarf the amount of new housing councils are able to build, with more than six times as many homes sold under RTB as those built by councils in 2017/18.

Figures also show that, since 2011/12, councils have only been able to replace nearly a fifth of homes sold, while seeing an increase of nearly 350% in RTB sales of council homes, from 2,638 in 2011/12 to 11,833 in 2017/18.

This has amounted to a total of nearly 70,000 council homes sold under RTB in seven years.

With councils only building 11,300 in that time, this equals a loss of around 58,000 social-rented homes over that period.

Currently, councils retain a third of RTB receipts, with the rest kept by the Treasury.

The LGA said councils need to be able to keep 100% of RTB receipts and set discounts locally, allowing them to replace the social-rented homes sold.

In advancing the Review, chancellor Sajid Javid promises increased spending on priority areas of schools, police, and health – while warning no government department will get a “blank cheque”.

The new Review date is widely tipped as the precursor to an autumn general election.

Within Whitehall, there is the suggestion of considerable concern that MPs could trigger a vote of no confidence in the government and an early general election, which could lead to departments being left in the dark about spending plans, with budgets running out in 2020.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the move “doesn’t inspire confidence – panic seems to be setting in inside government”.

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