HC Deb 10 July 1985 vol 82 cc1082-3
12. Mr. Gerald Bowden

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many meetings there have been between officials of his Department and senior officers of Southwark borough council since the beginning of 1985; and what were the reasons for such meetings.

Sir George Young

There have been two such meetings this year: a discussion about the redevelopment of the Bonamy estate and one about the disposal of land on the borough's land register. However, my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction is arranging to meet the elected representatives of Southwark, together with their officials, in the near future to discuss the unwarranted delays being experienced by tenants seeking to exercise their right to buy from the council.

Mr. Bowden

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. I hope that when the meeting takes place my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction will tell the officials of Southwark borough council of the frustration, anger and disappointment that so many of my constituents feel because of the lack of progress with their right-to-buy applications? Will he say what he intends to do about the incompetence and intransigence of Southwark borough council in dealing with the applications?

Sir George Young

I understand my hon. Friend's indignation. He has been in regular contact with my Department about the frustrations of the tenants in his constituency. My Department has formally warned the council under section 23 of the Housing Act 1980 that we are contemplating intervention. Before we take that step we wish to discuss the issue with councillors and officials in the near future. Southwark borough council indulges in meaningless procedural requirements, which delays the opportunity for tenants to buy their homes.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Will the Minister think again about the powers of the ombudsman? It appears that Southwark and many other authorities are guilty regularly of what is found to be maladministration. There will be no effective remedy until the ombudsman is given power to impose a solution when a local authority is not going about its affairs properly.

Sir George Young

I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said. I have no doubt that the Government Departments that are responsible for these matters will take account of what he has said and consider whether there is any remedy for the injustice that he has described.