Thursday, 17 November 2011

BBC: H&F Council reserve homes for developers, not residents

BBC's "Homes under the Hammer" is daytime TV at its best, with perma-tanned presenters chit chatting with property developers who buy up homes, inject a bit of razzmatazz and then flog them on for a profit. You normally see someone spend just over their projected budget, tackle some issue with the house and then realise a tidy sum at the property auctioneers. It's standard fare for the programme.

What isn't standard fare for the programme, however, is finding properties that are being flogged off by a local authority, in this case our own H&F Council selling a ground floor flat in Shepherd's Bush for £180,000 - who then insist that the buyer cannot actually live there themselves. They will only agree to sell an H&F home to someone who is either going to sell it on done-up, rent it out, or just flog it on as it is.

Why would they do that? As the presenter explains, click here to watch, "This restrictive clause is essentially a way for the Council to keep all the money made from the sale. If the buyer lived in the flat the government would receive 75% of the capital. So it's good for the council but of course that does limit its attraction to buyers."

Well, yes.

And limit its attractions to those of us who think our Council might be doing a little bit more to help the thousands of those in our borough who are homeless or in need of larger accommodation, perhaps? But what's £180,000 between friends.


  1. Chris this is a strange story, even by your fuzzy standards of late.

    It looks to me like the council is being intelligent about the rules and generating four times as much cash for local services.

    Such as, um, helping the homeless....

  2. "fuzzy standards" - ah yes, it's always easy to carp from behind anonymity. Why so shy?

    I would just think that it costs a lot more than £180k to re-house families and/or keep them in bed & breakfasts around the borough.

    And if you're suggesting that all of the £180K goes to "frontline" public services then I can only think you are naive.

  3. That's a rather odd way to 'help' the homeless, Anonymous. You're not a Tory councillor by any chance, are you?

  4. This seems like a problem with national government, not local government.

    The council are accountable to local people who live here now. I would say they are obliged to be financially diligent. Giving away 75% of a sale to the exchequer would be crazy.

    It's a very interesting issue - but the rules that make it necessary are at fault, not the council.

  5. P.S. Should have said good story Chris. I've never heard of this. If this is really the case then it's worth national attention. It could be costing councils a fortune on the one hand - or distorting the housing market on the other.

    I'll leave to you to point it to Newsnight's Richard Watson.

  6. Good article Chris. It appears that the Council is in breach of its own legal advice as I've reported here:

    I'll be taking this matter up but think the fundamental matter is that the Council shouldn't be selling off council homes when there is a colossal local need.


  7. Grant Shapps is on BBC Question Time tonight - maybe it will come up!

  8. Chris,
    I explain our policy here:

    The point is that more homes can be provided for those in need by selling this kind of property.
    By the way it went for £221,000 at the auction not £180,000.

  9. Interesting article. Unfortunately, I could not watch the video.
    The necessary question is whether this local government activity supports corruption?

  10. If ALL the money goes towards the Decent Neighbourhood pot as Harry Phibbs says in his article, then I can see that it makes sense.

    What doesn't make sense is why the council has to give away 75% if it's sold to an owner-occupier. That seems totally mad if it's true. Or is Chris employing tendentious argument?

    Incidentally, I've noticed that the Council-owned blocks where I live do look very much better than they used to. One block in Lime Grove looked absolutely terrible until recently, covered in a trashy array of rusting satellite TV dishes & draped with miles of scruffy cable. Utterly depressing.

    It's an ugly building, but now the clutter has gone & it looks clean & cared for. OK, maybe Sky isn't blasting out of the open windows now but if the council is responsible for that, everyone I've talked to will consider thanking you with a vote for making life better.

  11. Why do some people make accusations of corruption so frequently?

    That is a very, very serious allegation and should not be made without absolute proof.

    Making such allegations without proof can itself be a crime, can't it?

    I think it might be fairer & more prudent not to make allegations of corruption.

  12. Hammersmith and Fulham's 14,000 council homes were repaired with over £200million of government money in what was known as the Decent Homes Programme. The contract was finalised in 2005 and lated until 2010.

    After winning the election in 2006 the new Conservative Cabinet Member for Housing said they'd "been saddled" with the Decent Homes Programme.

    The money raised from the sale of this home certainly isn't being put back into local council housing. It's all going into the Conservative Administration's Capital Asset Sales pot which includes cash raised from the sale of Sure Start nurseries, libraries, community centers and lots of council homes.

    Genuinely affordable housing is a scarce resource. H&F's Conservative Councillors have described all who live in social housing as being "locked in a dependency and expectancy culture" so their sales of these much needed council homes are ideological rather than logical. Given the local need I think there's a very good chance these sales are also unlawful.

  13. So if you think it's unlawful, why not go to the police?

  14. "Anonymous said... So if you think it's unlawful, why not go to the police?"

    Dear Anonymous

    You may know that there are two aspects of the law. Those are criminal law and civil law. The police deal with crime so they are not relevant to this case. It is up to those who believe they have been wronged by a civil breach of the law to pursue their cause through the courts. So watch this space.


  15. Dear Stephen Cowan,

    The issue in question was allegations of 'corruption'.

    Corruption falls under the Criminal Law and that is investigated by the police. Hence my comment.

    Implying corrupt practice is a smear and libellous if it cannot be supported by evidence. Libel is prosecuted in the Civil Courts.

    I am sure you are not guilty of that but I think it is wise not to imply corruption or encourage anyone else to do so because they might unwittingly fall foul of the law whether Civil or Criminal.

  16. @ Stephen Cowan: "So watch this space."

    I have been watching this space & what I see is a lot of suggestion about corruption and illegality when talking about development.

    That's not right in my book mate unless there is proof and if there is proof it should be taken to the police.

    Otherwise it just looks like malicious sour grapes from people who can only take cheap shots.

  17. If this is as serious as some say it is why is it not being reported as a crime and why are the opposition not bringing this to the attention of the whole country by using the press. Why only speak about it on sites such as this which one comes across quite by accident and which, in the main, are used by very few people judging by the comments made.