HC Deb 16 April 1975 vol 890 cc432-3
17. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the provision of suitable accommodation for the elderly; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kaufman

The level of provision is not satisfactory and my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction has asked the Department to look into various aspects of housing for old people, including the provision of sheltered housing.

Miss Fookes

Is the Minister able to give us any idea of numbers? What is the shortfall, and how much public authority housing is sheltered?

Mr. Kaufman

It is difficult to give figures of shortfall because that would require a very precise knowledge of demand. I can tell the hon. Lady that one-third of all new building by local authorities, new towns and housing associations consists of one-bedroom accommodation, most of which is likely to be needed for old people.

Mr. Skinner

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the town in which I reside great attempts were made over the past seven or eight years to provide vast numbers of warden-controlled sheltered accommodation units for the old people who live in the town? Further, is he aware that, concurrent with the recent surcharge that has been imposed upon the 11 councillors, the district auditor is now threatening to surcharge the same 11 councillors for providing comprehensive warden schemes because they had the termerity to employ wardens at the miserly rate of £25 a week to operate throughout the day and night with a telecommunications system? Will my hon. Friend do something about that? Will he insist that district auditors do not get involved in political affairs and that they stick to the business they are supposed to be undertaking—namely, balancing the books or seeing that they are balanced correctly?

Mr. Kaufman

I am sure my hon. Friend accepts that it would not be appropriate for me to enter into arguments about the actions of district auditors, particularly when audits are taking place. I know of my hon. Friend's pride in what has been done by his friends in Clay Cross for old people. [Interruption.] Yes, I know that my hon. Friend is proud of what his council has done. Without entering into the merits of the case, I welcome the efforts of local authorities to help their old people.

Miss Bain

Is the Minister able to give the House any guarantee that the vague reference to tighter control of local authority spending used yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not injure plans by local authorities for the building of sheltered housing communities?

Mr. Kaufman

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear in his Budget Statement that the cuts in expenditure on housing did not refer to new building. New building will be able to go ahead at the record subsidies provided for new building by the Labour Government.