Archived press release: Lib Dem controlled Oldham and Sheffield Councils win national awards for affordable homes innovations
2 May 2013
Oldham and Sheffield councils' Liberal Democrat councillors were celebrating this week after winning the national Lib Dem Council Group of the Year award for improving local housing at the Party's Spring Conference in Birmingham.
Awarded in recognition of the innovation and good practice - in spite of the government's restrictions on building affordable housing - the awards were presented by Baroness Ros Scott, President of the Liberal Democrat Party and their Local Government and Communities Shadow Secretary of State, Julia Goldsworthy.
Oldham was overall winner of the housing award for their innovative and very positive work that has helped to prevent homelessness and make living in Oldham more affordable. Their good practice has included:
- A downsizing incentive scheme to reduce overcrowding - 100 households have benefitted with underoccupied homes freed up for overcrowded families
- A severe hardship fund of £46,000, which has prevented 141 households from becoming homeless (and saved public funds because of the high cost of providing temporary accommodation)
- A mortgage rescue scheme
- £101,000 invested in the Oldham Citizens' Advice Bureau
- Introduction of the innovative, 'Oldham Bond' for people who can't afford a deposit on a home (the Bond provides a deposit for landlords)
- Dramatic cut in homelessness in spite of recession - 55 homeless this year compared to nearly 1,000 in 2003/4
- No one in bed & Breakfast accommodation, compared to 231 placed in such accommodation in 2007/8
- CAB waiting time reduced from 6 weeks to 5 days
Sheffield Council's Lib Dem group came highly commended for their work, which has included: a mortgage rescue scheme; an affordable warmth scheme offering thousands of residents free insulation; strong work on tenant empowerment; reduction in households in Bed & Breakfast accommodation; a downsizing scheme; success pressuring the government to keep rent increases down; and the standards of their Council homes, which are far higher than the government's Decent Homes Standard.
Speaking on the innovation and good practice of these councils, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson at the Local Government Association (and directly-elected Mayor of Watford), Dorothy Thornhill said: "The government makes it incredibly hard for councils to build new affordable homes and it's probably impossible to keep up with the demand. Until the government changes its restrictions on councils' ability to build new affordable homes, councils will be fighting an up-hill battle to meet demand.
Nonetheless, Oldham, Sheffield and other Liberal Democrat councils have helped to make homes in their areas more affordable and stopped many from being thown out of their homes during this recession and are very keen to share their learning with other councils.
"Town halls are restricted in delivering new homes because they do not have enough freedom to manage the finances of their own housing, cannot use the proceeds from council house sales to build new homes, nor can they access funding for building affordable homes on the same terms as housing associations and private developers."
9 November 2016