Thursday, October 14, 2010

Housing matters: Alison Seabeck MP New Labour Shadow Minister

Labourlist "Anyone who campaigned for Labour during this election knows that housing matters. Anyone who spoke to an overcrowded family on a housing estate still waiting for the Decent Homes upgrade, to the twenty-something graduate still living with their parents or the young couple putting off marriage or children until they can afford a home knows housing matters.

I grew up in a Labour home, my dad was a local councillor who led Havering council before spending five years at Westminster. He was dedicated to provision of high-quality social housing and remained involved with housing late into life.

I’m proud to be leading the fight for Labour on one of our key areas. I’ll follow in John Healey’s footsteps in placing housing front and centre when we speak to our local communities and campaigning for the party. I’ll hold the coalition to account and I’ll listen to you when you tell me how the coalition’s policies are affecting your area.

If we get housing right then we build strong, safe, cohesive communities; get housing wrong and it isn’t merely a case of poor housing stock or a shortage of homes, it’s an affront to people’s sense of community, to their sense of justice – you need only look at the way housing was exploited by the BNP in Barking & Dagenham, where I was born, to see not only the consequence of where we get it wrong on housing but where we can rebuild bonds with the community which have broken down and reaffirm our commitment as a party that listens and campaigns for a fair deal on housing.

Too many people thought we weren’t listening on housing and we will need to reflect long and hard on our record; a record of which we can be justifiably proud – even in the depths of recession the Labour government was building tens of thousands of new homes and funding repairs to existing properties and protecting homeowners who feared they could lose their homes; but we must not be afraid of looking carefully and critically at our record and asking, what more could we have done? How will we do better next time? We will listen, we will consult, there will be no sacred cows.

Decent and affordable homes go to the heart of our welfare state and to the heart of our Labour Party. Whereas the Tories let our housing stocks thin out and disappear in the right to buy and let the remaining estates sink into disrepair, we embarked on the most ambitious repairs programme to bring all council homes up to a minimum decent standard and it will be a test of this government’s tenuous commitment to fairness whether or not they commit the remaining funding needed to complete this vital work.

Faced with the immense challenges that we face in housing, we need a government which acts to resolve the problems. Instead, we have a coalition convinced that all it needs to do is hide the evidence or pass the responsibility down to local councils or the voluntary sector. When addressing the high cost of housing caused by low supply their response is to take away people’s ability to pay by cutting housing benefit and to scrap regulations which will mean substantially fewer homes will be built over the next twelve months than if Labour had been in power. We have a housing minister who wants to see more first-time buyers and yet he’s pursuing policies that will see fewer homes built and he’s scrapping Labour’s HomeBuy Direct scheme which helped first-time buyers get a foot on the ladder.

At every turn, the coalition is making the wrong decisions. Cameron says see what they’ve achieved in five months and imagine what they could do in five years. It doesn’t bear thinking about. In housing they have managed to alienate almost every sector within housing and are being taken to court by housing developers

In the 1980s I worked in Roy Hattersley’s office and I know the price of opposition, watching a Tory government chip away at the foundations of a fair and equitable society; I also worked for Nick Raynsford, the former housing minister, when we were in government and I know what we can achieve and why winning the next general election is so important.

I promise I will listen to everything that this party has to say. We will attack this government when they make the wrong decisions on housing but we won’t rush into policy making and we won’t have a knee jerk response to everything but we’ll keep the pressure on the Tories and the Liberals. I’m delighted to be part of a strong shadow CLG team under Caroline Flint and I look forward to hearing from you.


Anonymous said...

I note that you refer to her as “New Labour” with a capital N. I think perhaps you should listen to the leader New Labour is no more.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon

"New" as in "bright and shiny".

There again perhaps we are now all New, New Labour now methinks.