John Healey – 2010 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by John Healey, the then Shadow Housing and Planning Minister, to the 2010 Labour Party conference.

Conference, John Healey, Shadow Housing Minister responding to the housing motion, backed first by 28 CLPs and the Labour Housing Group, now, clearly, with every speaker and the whole Conference behind it.

The motion calls on the Shadow Cabinet and Parliamentary Labour Party to campaign with other groups against the new government’s housing cuts and policy changes.

We will.

We will campaign with other groups and we will campaign together with you in your constituencies, your Labour council groups and your trade unions.

We will campa ign together because what we see from the Tories and Lib Dems offends our basic Labour belief in a decent, secure and affordable home for all.

And our job is to help people see more clearly, more quickly not just what this Tory-led government is doing, but also why.

Make no mistake Conference, we must be most concerned about many of the cuts; but if we only talk of spending cuts we miss something more fundamental.

They want a smaller deficit, of course, we all do.

They want a smaller state, of course, they’re Tories.

But they also want a state which sheds its duty to its people on housing.

You can see this in their:

Cuts to national housing investment, which means thousands fewer affordable homes built this year, and the end of our new council house building;

Changes to the planning system which remove any national requirement on local councils to plan or agree new homes for their area;

Cutbacks in the national sy stem of help, which leaves people with less support on housing costs and more local variation;

Plans to remove the right to long-term tenancies in public housing, which means local landlords setting their own tenancy terms;

Questions over the national cap on rent rises for social housing tenants and over the nationally-set homelessness duty on councils.

On every front they are looking to withdraw national government with Tory and Lib Dem ministers washing their hands of any national role or responsibility for meeting people’s housing needs and aspirations.

Meanwhile, local councils – increasingly Labour local councils – will be left to pick up the pieces, and, if we don’t help people see clearly what’s happening and why – local councils will also be left to pick up the blame.

Conference, what difference a year makes, what a differe nce a Labour government makes.

Last year, I reported to you as Labour’s Housing Minister.

Last year, as a Labour government, we didn’t cutback housing investment, despite and because of the deep recession, we stepped it up.

Last year, we:

Kept Britain building through recession, starting more new affordable homes than before the downturn;

Launched the largest council house building programme for nearly 20 years;

Made apprenticeships a compulsory condition of getting any government contract;

Set up special help on mortgages, so repossessions have been half the rate of the last recession;

Gave councils new powers to clamp down on the worst private landlords and control the spread of bedsit-barons.

Ed Miliband told us on Tuesday to be proud of what we did well in government.

I am.

He also said he’d back the new government when they’re right.

So will I.

But Conference, I have to tell you that in five months I’ve not found a single change I can support.

Their latest plan is a “new homes bonus”, matching the council tax on any new home built with extra funding for the local council for six years.

They’re right to want to a strong incentive system for councils and communities ready to see new homes built in their area.

But this isn’t it.

There’s no new money. And the government will take a top-slice cut across the grant to all local government to cover the cost.

This scheme robs some councils to pay the rest.

So I’m publishing a detailed analysis of their plans today, which shows:

It will cause chaos in the council tax system, and more cuts to many hard-pressed council budgets.

It blows a huge hole in George Osborne’s promise to freeze council tax.

And our big towns and cities will be hardest hit, as they will have to see many more new homes built every year in their area to “break even” under the new system.

This is the latest in the long line of damaging cuts and policy changes.

This motion and this Conference is right to say we must campaign harder on housing.

Our debate today is a start.

Our duty tomorrow is to fight to stop the worst of what’s to come, and to show there is an alternative, a Labour alternative, a better way, the Labour way.

With you, we will do that, every day until the last day of this Tory-Lib Dem government.