Cable slams council property investment
Former business secretary Vince Cable has weighed into the row about council borrowing cheap money to fund property investment. Quoted in The Guardian newspaper, Cable said: “This is not a wise and sensible thing to do. Local authorities have a long and inglorious history of gambling in financial and property markets. In the 1980s, Hammersmith and Fulham council was one of several local authorities that got into financial difficulties after becoming involved in complex bets on interest rates.”
MPs question council housing company skills
The government should review the capacity and skills of local authority housing companies, according to MPs on the House of Commons communities and local government committee. A committee report said: “We welcome all efforts by councils to be innovative and explore alternative delivery models such as joint ventures and arms-length local authority trading companies. However, we are concerned that with so many different approaches across the country, there is a risk that best practice is not shared and that resources could be used inefficiently. There is also a risk that the large number of local authority housing companies could struggle to access the skills and expertise needed to deliver at scale.”
Call to scrap Local Government Pension Scheme
The government should de-fund the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and use the assets to seed a sovereign wealth fund, with a significant allocation to infrastructure, according to a new report. The Centre for Policy Studies said: “As a quid pro quo, a Crown guarantee could be provided on the pension promises, which would be met subsequently on a pay-as-you-go basis.”
Authorities stung over Right to Buy sales
Local authorities have spent millions of pounds buying back houses they were forced to sell at a discount under the Right to Buy, according to a BBC investigation. The report found that London Borough of Islington alone spent more than £6.2m buying back homes it sold for less than £1.3m under the policy.
Neighbourhood budget cuts revealed
Budgets for neighbourhood services are in a parlous state, according to a report from the Association for Public Service Excellence. The report found that spending on neighbourhood services in England fell £3.1bn, or 13%, between 2010/11 and 2015/16 while spending on social care rose £2.2bn. Spending on neighbourhood services fell 22% among the most deprived fifth of councils over five years but only 5% in better off areas, the report found.