The outcome of the Council elections next Thursday will determine the future of housing in this district.
The Conservatives have presided over 12 years of housing failure, leading to falling home-ownership, unaffordable private rents and a big increase in homelessness. Developers have often been allowed to avoid the legal requirement that 30% of new private homes must be affordable, meaning home-ownership for those under 45 has dropped sharply. The failure to build new council homes means that there are now approximately 2,500 families on the district’s housing needs register. That’s 2,500 families without a home. It has also caused a huge increase in the housing benefit bill, as low-income families cannot afford the cost of private rent. The current policy is damaging to residents who cannot afford a home and to the public finances.
No one visiting Canterbury of an evening can have failed to notice the significant numbers of people sleeping rough in doorways and down side streets. This is not acceptable and the new council must intervene.
Pursuing the same old policies will not address these problems and bold new ones are needed. A Labour-run Council would build, or acquire, 2,000 new council homes over the next 10 years. That is the only way that the housing needs of the less well-off will be met. It would also insist on private developers complying with their “affordable homes” commitments and support an all-year-round hostel for homeless people.
The Conservatives are ideologically opposed to social housing and remain committed to 1980s dogma about a “property-owning democracy” and “market forces.” These policies simply haven’t worked for many people and haven’t been much help to the 2,500 families in the district with nowhere to live.
The choice for voters on Thursday is pretty simple. Do we want everyone in the district to have a home or not?
Simon Warley, Labour Councillor for Westgate ward.
Much as I like Cllr Mike Dixey, his recent interview with Jack Dyson of The Gazette contains a number of claims which cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. Not least among these is the idea that voting for the Liberal Democrats is a viable way of removing the ruling Conservative Party from the Council.
Not only is this idea based on one by-election for a County Council seat outside the City – a by-election with a ludicrously low turnout – but it completely ignores the lessons of the June 2017 elections, when both former Lib Dem and Green voters switched to Labour to unseat Conservatives in both the Parliamentary seat and in Westgate ward.
A coalition of voters rather than of parties, is what is needed if the District is to have a Council which begins to undo the damage caused by 20 years of Conservative mismanagement. The next City Council will be faced with enormous borrowing incurred by the Conservatives in reckless investments in the rapidly declining retail property – over £150 million to buy Whitefriars alone, a gamble which already looks like backfiring – and on the hated Station Road West car park, plus more money wasted on buying up student housing instead of building desperately needed Council housing.
While Councillor Dixey’s analysis of the problems may be correct, his proposed solution is not. Labour is committed to dealing with the terrible legacy of the Conservatives which, in part at least, Cllr Dixey’s party in Westminster helped to create by supporting austerity. Labour will build more homes more quickly than the Lib Dems’ lukewarm (and vague) proposal. We will stop the multi-storey car park if at all possible, improve transport and cycle routes, end the disaster that is the Serco contract, support local businesses and promote a real living wage as part of a campaign to end zero-hours contracts.
If people genuinely want change, there is only going to be one way to get it in May, which is to vote directly for the only Party which can unseat the Conservatives. And unfortunately for Mike Dixey, that’s not the Liberal Democrats.