HC Deb 22 July 1980 vol 989 cc631-2W
Mr. Peter Bottomley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will be making detailed proposals for the working of the new housing project control and the new housing subsidy systems.

Mr. Stanley

My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Wales are today issuing two consultation papers to the local authority associations. Copies of both consultation papers have been placed in the Library.

The first, "New arrangements for Housing Project Control in England and Wales". sets out proposals for a radical reduction in detailed central Government control over local authority housing projects as from April 1981. The proposals are designed to secure value for money by promoting local accountability while reducing bureaucracy. Local accountability will be ensured in two ways. First, a significant share of the cost of all new housing investment will continue to be met, as now, from local resources. Secondly, authorities will make details of their schemes, with estimates of cost and value, publicly available. On completion of each scheme local authorities will publish its actual cost and value. Bureacracy will be reduced by abolishing Parker Morris standards and the cost yardstick control system for new housebuilding by local authorities. Central Government will intervene only if a scheme appears to be so expensive or to give such poor value for money that taxpayers and ratepayers cannot reasonably be asked to contribute towards its financing. There will be similar arrangements for improvement schemes.

The second consultation paper, "The New Subsidy System" sets out further detailed proposals on the working of the new housing subsidy system that is due to commence also in April 1981. There will be three significant changes compared to existing arrangements. First, reckonable expenditure on repairs and maintenance, whether financed by borrowing or out of revenue, will be brought within the subsidy system. Secondly, the present restriction on subsidy for improvements to dwellings less than 30 years old in England ("the 30 year rule") and 55 years old in Wales, will be abolished. These two changes will enable local authorities to decide on their housing priorities between new building on the one hand and rehabilitation on the other without the major distortion that can arise from the present subsidy system. Thirdly, reckonable expenditure on the management of the housing stock will also be brought within the subsidy system.