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Southwark Council slam government housing minister over right to buy

Southwark Council has slammed government plans to stop local authorities side-stepping the right to buy scheme, which allows council tenants to buy their properties.

After it was predicted the borough would lose nearly 10,000 council homes to the Margaret Thatcher-introduced policy over the next 30 years, Southwark, along with other local authorities, started taking steps to limit the damage.

But when housing minister, Brandon Lewis, got wind that some councils were plotting to set up their own housing companies to build and manage new homes, he said in a public statement that he would not support their plans.

Tenants of the new housing companies would not be eligible for Right to Buy as they would not be considered council tenants, despite the council-owned company acting as landlord.

“The actions of a handful of councils mean the Right to Buy for some tenants is now under threat – I will not support any council setting up a housing company unless their tenants continue to have the chance of having a Right to Buy,” said Mr Lewis on March 20.

Southwark Council leader, Peter John (pictured), hit back saying the government’s ever increasing discounts offered for Right to Buy were “undermining” the council’s ability to build new homes.

“At a time when London is facing a housing crisis, with growing numbers of people on council waiting lists, the government is pushing ahead with its plans to sell off council housing at an even greater rate. This is hardly the “localism in action” that ministers claim to be seeking,” said Cllr John.

“Any home we build can now be sold immediately to its new tenant at a £103,900 discount.”

The government is increasing the discount offered to council tenants to buy their properties in line with inflation every year and has also reduced the length of time the tenant needs to have been living in the property from five years to three.

Southwark Council says it has lost 250 homes to Right to Buy this year and expects the number to increase further with the recent changes.

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