HC Deb 22 January 1992 vol 202 cc301-2
7. Mr. Vaz

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a further statement about homelessness in Leicester.

Mr. Yeo

The primary responsibility for dealing with homelessness in Leicester rests with Leicester city council.

Mr. Vaz

The Minister is aware that hundreds of families in Leicester are homeless. Does he agree that one way in which the council can help to alleviate their hardship, stress and suffering is to spend the money that it has received from the sale of council houses—a total of £10.4 million? Does he accept that that is one way in which the homelessness crisis, created by the Government's callous policy, will be solved?

Mr. Yeo

Maintaining restrictions on the freedom of local authorities to spend capital receipts allows the Government to increase the borrowing power of local authorities whose housing needs are greater. That is why Leicester council has been treated so extraordinarily well in its housing investment programme allocation for 1992–93, which has increased by 8 per cent. to almost £20 million. That is well above the average for the region and is in addition to another £11 million of housing association funds for its area next year and £5 million of estate action money to tackle the worst estates.

The Government are doing much for homeless people and tenants in Leicester. Unfortunately, Labour-controlled Leicester city council is not. It has one of the worst records in the country for collecting rent. At 31 December last year, it had £5 million of rent outstanding and 450 empty homes that could have been made available if it had managed its stock better. Its record is typical of Labour-controlled councils—inefficient and doctrinaire—and is a frightening warning of what the country would suffer if we had a Labour Government.