“This is a serious problem for housing associations. How can they trust a voluntary deal, the terms of which are not in the Bill? They have no guarantee that the Secretary of State or his successor will not welch on the deal, or that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not march in with his big boots to override the Secretary of State. Unless the guarantees that they are seeking as a basis for this deal are placed in the legislation, I fear the worst for them.” – John Healey, November 2, 2015
The [Right To Buy] RTBe, while in the [Housing and Planning] Bill, is subject to a “voluntary” deal offered by NHF and so avoids parliamentary scrutiny and, significantly, Greg Clark the Minister stated that this applied to ALL housing associations including those who voted against the deal, despite assurances from David Orr [head of the National Housing Federation], saying they would not be, in propaganda the NHF issued for the vote on this!
Also telling throughout the debate was the little if any counter argument from the Government to the charge that this Bill would lead to a reduction in social housing. In fact, the largest dissent was Tory London MPs worried about the loss of social housing in London!
Yet far more important was the announcement on Friday that the ONS had reclassified housing associations as public sector bodies – not the private ones that, again, David Orr had assured the sector they were and was an absolute KEY for voting for this deal.
In a piece written before the debate yesterday Isabel Hardman of the Spectator (and former Inside Housing journalist) said this of the “voluntary” offer:
“Those involved in getting legislation through the House have since called Communities Secretary Greg Clark a ‘genius’ for securing the voluntary deal, as it means the Tories could avoid a row and legislative defeat. These names were not being circulated publicly, so the sector will not have known about them, but those ministers involved in working on the voluntary deal will have been well aware.
“The NHF was stitched up like a kipper and its (Glorious) leader David Orr sold them down the river with his assurances on independence, on the discretion he claimed they would have and on those voting No to his deal would not have to sell their properties.”
Yet by far the biggest worry is the fingerprint of the Chancellor, George Osborne, all over this Bill and RTBe… Why on earth would Osborne pay housing associations the RTBe discounts back if they are public sector bodies? By being classified the same as council landlords who do not get the discounts given paid back to them, there is simply no need for Osborne to pay out the up to £4.5 billion per year of estimated discounts at all.
I will leave the last word on RTBe and that issue again to John Healey:
“The Bill is driven by the politics of the Conservative party, not the housing needs of the country, and it is not really his Bill. Like the cut to tax credits, this Bill is the Chancellor’s work, with his political fingerprints all over it..“
In summary, the RTBe ‘deal’ is secretive and given the ONS decision was premature and in hindsight unnecessary. The deal does not guarantee anything at all for NHF members apart from scorn and a realisation that their Glorious Leader David Orr is inept when it comes to politic and lobbying for housing associations.
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