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Letter: A Confusing Letter, Economical With the Truth, Calls For an Apology

Published on: 6 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 6 Feb, 2021

From: Philip Brooker

Former GBC lead councillor (Con) for housing and homelessness

In response to: Mr Davis Has Not Got His Facts Right

Referring to the letter from Cllrs Jan Harwood and Caroline Reeves on February 4 in reply to the letter from former councillor Geoff Davis on February 3, regrettably there is a huge element of being economical with the truth, and confusing social and affordable housing.

The facts are simply these. The Liberal Democrat manifesto for the May 2019 local election stated they would build 3,000 new council houses over 10 years and make developers build at least 40% affordable housing.

The target number of houses to be built in the Local Plan over the first 10 years is approximately 8,500, making the 40% element for affordable housing 3,400 units.

Cllr Reeves was a member of the committee working on the Local Plan during its preparation so she assisted in forming this policy and is well aware of the contents.

Thus, over 10 years, a total of 6,400 social and affordable housing units should be built. We are now two years into this period and 1,280 new units should now be complete.

So, to simply resolve the claims and counterclaims, perhaps Cllrs Harwood and Reeves could inform us how many new social houses and how many new affordable houses have been completed since May 2019?

North Downs Housing was an initiative established by the previous Conservative administration. Cllrs Harwood and Reeves would have us believe units provided under this scheme are for “affordable” rent, but they are for commercial rent aimed at the lower income scale, a continuation of Conservative policy.

They also refer to the Guildford Park, Bright Hill and Weyside Urban Village projects, suggesting these are new initiatives, but they had all been identified and progressed under the previous Conservative administration. So again, nothing new.

By contrast, the Conservatives had an excellent record of housing provision and initiatives and, in particular, my plan to build approximately 110 social houses per year for the foreseeable future, all on existing council-owned brownfield land, sites already identified.

This is in addition to the 3,400 affordable houses over 10 years we were committed to by adopting the Local Plan.

Cllrs Harwood and Reeves state there “will undoubtedly be far more homes for affordable rent than we would have seen under the Conservatives”.

But nothing in their letter suggests this, so as well as quantifying the units that have been completed in the past two years, it would be useful if they could also identify any new initiatives not previously part of Conservative policy.

An apology should be in order for such a blatant attempt to distort the facts.

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Responses to Letter: A Confusing Letter, Economical With the Truth, Calls For an Apology

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    February 7, 2021 at 8:58 am

    Cllrs Reeves and Harwood should be truthful on this. As Cllr Reeves was involved in the development of the Local Plan, she knows full well that neither councillors nor officers can enforce the “40% affordable” ambition.

    The Local Plan allows for developers to water down the affordable content, by playing the “financial viability” provision. This means that, once planning permission is granted, the developers get their accountants to do the sums and, hey presto, they find that they cannot afford to build the required proportion of, or even any, so-called affordable homes, and make a profit.

    The council does not have the wherewithal to challenge such claims. The other allowance in the Local Plan (as confirmed by Cllr Moseley) is that there is no limit to the number of houses that can be built, as the Local Plan numbers are merely a guide, not a cap.

    Please do not treat residents as imbeciles, and tell us the truth.

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