Government's housing proposals risk undermining council's future investment programme

Published: Thursday, 10th September 2015

Oxford City Council leaders have expressed serious concern about the potential impact of the Government's proposed changes to housing legislation on the Council’s future investment programme.

The Government's extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants will be funded by the sale of higher value Council houses as they become void. The Chancellor's July Budget Statement also announced that Councils will be required to reduce rents by 1% each year for the next four years, a change to previous Government policy that rents should rise gradually over the next ten years.

The Council estimates that the combined effect of these policies could amount to a £36.5 million shortfall in its housing revenue account budget over the next four years to 2019/20, and £136 million over 10 years.

If the changes get the go-ahead, they will severely impact the Council's planned four-year £116m Housing Ambition programme.

As a result the Council has agreed a review on all non-essential larger capital works in order to consider the impact of the proposals while the Government clarifies the detail of their policies.

However, many projects will go ahead, including those that have started or are about to start, such as the £20m Tower Block refurbishment scheme for which a contractor has already been selected. The recently announced Oxford Standard homes improvement scheme will also go ahead, as will the planned £23m for essential health and safety, energy efficiency and decent homes investment.

Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and Board Member for Finance, Asset Management and Public Health, says: "The Government’s proposals pose a serious risk to the Council's investment programme, and we have paused some of the programme until Government have clarified their policies and we understand if any of our larger planned projects will have to be changed.

We are talking to the Government to influence the development of these policies and to minimise impact on Oxford's housing investment plans. We are also raising it with our two MPs, Andrew Smith and Nicola Blackwood, and will seek meetings with Ministers.”