Councillor calls for end to right to buy

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A LOCAL authority housing chief in West Yorkshire has called for the council tenants’ right to buy their homes to be scrapped, branding it a “bribe” to buy.

Leeds councillor Pete Gruen was speaking as figures revealed the controversial scheme – one of Margaret Thatcher’s key legacies – is having a major impact on the city’s overall housing crisis. Experts say a radical overhaul is needed to allow supply of council homes to catch up with demand.

The authority has raked in £350m from selling off 10,000 council houses in the past decade, and currently has funds to build just 105.

Official figures also show the number of Leeds council tenants using their right to buy has increased in the past year since a maximum 70 per cent discount was introduced, meaning the council is losing its stock faster than it is replacing it. And the number sold in the past year is more than the authority is planning to build over the next three.

Coun Gruen said: “We have sold 10,000, but the money goes to the Government. It’s our council stock, and we ought to be able to keep the money and build more.

“People are being given a bribe of up to 70 per cent to buy their council house. But in the last six years in Leeds, we have spent £600m or £700m to make these very properties decent. It’s massive public money that’s gone as a subsidy. Tenants get the property very cheap, and the Government pockets the money from those right to buy sales. We lose our best stock - and we can only replace a third of a house for each house sold.”

Coun Gruen is championing alternatives to the Right to Buy discount, including paying lump sum deposits for tenants who want to buy.

The National Housing Federation’s Yorkshire manager Rob Warm said: “(The Government) needs ... to make sure the commitment to replace any social homes lost through right-to-buy can be met in cities like Leeds.”