Conservative Council Houses

We are learning that the Conservatives plan that a new government will be helping local authorities to build more houses and be providing land and buildings for conversion at below market value. Housing would then be able to be purchased by tenants after 10 to 15 years and the realised monies reinvested in housing. Allegedly the core money will come out of £1.4bn of the infrastructure spend outlined in the budget. For housing, of course, this is small fry.

But it does look like a  modest reversal of so called neoliberalism as:

  • It is clear state intervention in the market
  • It will provide a little more competition for private landlords
  • It is a recognition that the state has some obligation to house its citizens.

It also cleverly dangles the opportunity for eventual home ownership (though whether this is neoliberalism or not is debatable. I would say it was distributism and to be encouraged. I hope to add a future blog on this subject).

What does all this suggest?

I’d say it suggests that Theresa May intends to follow a different, less ‘Etonian’ path than Cameron – partly I suspect, in acknowledgement of what a disaster Brexit will be.

I wonder if we are seeing a realisation that both circuses and bread will be required in order to keep society together in the wake of Brexit. But in order to pursue that different path she needs a strong endorsement for her leadership, making the Conservative Party hers. It is not the negotiating in Brussels she needs her mandate for but in order to stamp her complete control on the Conservative Party. Hence she is running a closed but very Presidential campaign. We’re encouraged to vote not for our Conservative candidate but by voting Conservative, for Theresa May.

There are rumours that she has had disagreements over spending with her Chancellor. Once she has a mandate and an overwhelming majority, disagreement will be a path to the back benches.

If she succeeds it looks to me as though there is a spark of hope that she will be following a rather different path from Cameron and Osborne, although in putting the country behind the Conservative Party she will certainly be following in their wake.


  1. Sean Danaher -

    This is welcome; I will try to suspend my disbelief. There have been other announcements on workers rights also which look distinctly non Tory. Can a leopard really change its spots? The housing crisis however is pretty systemic and this seems like putting a sticking plaster on a gaping wound. Dramatic intervention is needed; something like the New Green Deal for example. The power dynamics will be interesting as the right wing of the Tory party seem very much in the ascendant and it looks as if the “Off Shore Tax Haven” scenario is the most likely outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

  2. Nicola Christina -

    Is it me, or does anyone else find it aggravating that all ruling parties at election time make pledges for things they will do if we elect them again, instead of just doing those things any way? Manifestos are pointless – they are no better than New Year’s Resolutions or Dear Santa lists – fantastical at best, and downright dishonest at worst.

  3. Simon Cohen -

    I have grave doubts about this. As usual with anything coming from the Tory party we have to ask what are the underlying finance arrangements and how does the financial sector get its cut. Tories don’t change their spots! I would be war and ask the following questions.

    1) Why is it still driving ownership as a goal? Social housing should not be built for a sell of to reinvest as this relies on the maintenance of some sort of bubble.

    A recent BBC report stated: ‘The Conservatives said this would allow increases in land and property values over that period to be reinvested in social housing.’

    So it is all predicated on more bubbling ! Beyond disgusting.

    2) What will this do to LOWER house prices! Given the observations of 1) above – nothing, nada, diddley squat to the power of infinity! The Tories love asset bubbles and the house as piggy bank.

    3) Given that 39% of the Tory have significant interests in land and property, are they REALLY going to do something to undermine rapacious property and land values-answers on a postcard please!

    The Tories are clearly doing their usual thing-hypnotising people with the notion that they too (nice pat on the head) can be property owners and ‘wealth sharers’ as Thatcher promised depite the fact that everything headed in the opposite direction. Given the policy was presented on the BBC by the oleaginous, sharp-suited equity man Fallon whose own financial past links him to ghastly LOBO loans that are exacerbating housing shortages in a variety of councils, I would consider this the offer of the cheapest of cheap used car salesmen.

    This is more asset bubble based non-thinking designed to sucker the populace into more ‘trickle-down’ illusionism.

    1. Peter May -

      Agree entirely just so long as I didn’t think our inscrutable Prime Minister might just be Machiavelli in drag…

    2. Charles Adams -

      Simon, I did not know about the LOBO loan scandal – a quick search suggests that the rates are very much on the high side compared to what central government pays to borrow which you could argue is the effective ‘market’ rate for councils. You should write a longer piece on this!

  4. Chris Kitcher -

    Time after time we have seen that the Tories can’t be trusted as they are inveterate liars. They are market orientated and will sell anything to ensure their hegemonic control of the U.K. They have no social conscience and are gradually killing off the poor and vulnerable. A truly Malthusian orientated body who will stop at nothing to further their evil intent.

  5. Mark Crown -

    One thing the Alt Right is very good at – and that the Tories copy with gusto – is using progressive words and imagery and reinterpreting it from a Rightwing perspective. We should be very careful about what this ‘policy’ actually means.

    The Tories are really good at talking about the ‘huge vested interests’ of producers such as registered social landlords and council landlords and calling them ‘monopolies’ and wanting to put consumer/user interests first.

    But what we have seen Tory policy do over the years is not really get rid of monopolies: rather they just change the ownership of monopolies – from public to private.

    Over the years Government has favoured the Housing Association sector (mini-QAUNGOs) as a developer of new housing but have also made allocating social housing grant (SHG – now affordable housing grant ) more competitive with HA’s bidding down their grant to get it! And who steps in with the gap money? Why the private banking sector of course! Which might explain why we ended up getting social housing rents at 80% of market rent and higher housing benefit bills.

    All of this is tolerated because the neo-lib consensus in British politics is that we must let markets be involved in everything. We must be more selective as to where private investment is allocated in social provision and housing is one of those areas that in my view it is not needed as it just puts up costs.

    As a result I would wait to see how May’s Government would actually deliver this before getting prematurely excited. All I am seeing here is genuine retaliation to Labour’s ideas. Remember, this is the same party that is talking about the private funding of our health system. And we all know what that means.

    We know that the law puts the investor first. The investor is yet another mouth to feed who gets pushed to the front of the queue for their return – before the patient/tenant and the worker who actually produces the health service or who builds the house. Until that model is ripped up, private investment and the role of markets is something I will remain distinctly hostile to.

  6. Mark Crown -

    In addition to my post above, here is an interesting link which might be how the Tories are thinking?

    But again I’d need to see the detail as it all seems to ran by the finance sector to me so my worries about investor primacy still stand. And with Pension Actuaries under no other legal obligation but to keep increasing the pension fund at whatever cost? Are these proposals going to be undermined by the way the system currently works?

    1. Peter May -

      Agreed. Your link just shows that we’re back to shrinking the state again.
      Elphicke’s whole idea is “by raising money directly from pension funds, saving the taxpayer £5bn by relieving government of the need to invest in social housing”
      As we know the taxpayer doesn’t need to be relieved of the need to invest in social housing. It’s an investment for them too – it’s just they can dictate the rent rather than being obliged to maximise the return.
      What an irony that she comes from Stevenage.

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