On Wednesday, I joined Philippa Stroud, our Parliamentary Candidate in Sutton & Cheam and more than fifty supporters of a campaign organised by Jean Crossby and the Sutton Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations. They presented a petition to Downing Street to a fanfare of support as we watched them going in with coaches and cars giving us the occasional honk of solidarity.
The campaign which has attracted cross-party support demands an urgent review of the policy which takes £10m from our social housing rent account to maintain council houses in other parts of the country.
This equates to 19 weeks rent each year that some of the most vulnerable residents in the Borough are paying whilst living in the second-worst housing in London. Only Tower Hamlets has council-owned housing in a worse state of repair. £125,000,000 is required to bring our housing stock up to the Decent Homes Standard. This level of repair in no way equates to opulence or lavish changes. This will mean that our tenants can live in homes without mould and damp affecting their health, with an adequate kitchen and bathroom. This should not be too much to ask in a comparatively prosperous borough but we are working with one or two arms behind our back when the Government props up its marginal seats with extra money creamed off other Councils in the south.
Our Planning, Transport & Housing policy group will be looking at ways of tackling the problem of housing standards with solutions that lie within our remit. This campaign was well organised and very well supported. We are really happy to support the residents in having their say at the very top level. However, as politicians we cannot stop there. We must take a lead and ensure that we have used every channel and innovative idea that is open to us rather than simply sitting back, wringing our hands and blaming others. Leave any thoughts here or go to our Policy Groups web page and join the debate there.