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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Council wants to buy back homes
Dame Shirley Porter
In 1987 Dame Shirley hoped council house buyers would vote Tory
A council is buying back houses sold by Dame Shirley Porter in the so-called "homes-for-votes" scandal of 1987.

Westminster City Council has asked owners of 6,000 ex-council properties whether they want to sell, in an attempt to ease its housing shortage.

Many were sold cut-price by ex-council leader Dame Shirley, who hoped buyers would be more likely to vote Tory.

The council says the 49m scheme could save it 500,000 per year in temporary accommodation fees.

The number of council homes plummeted after Margaret Thatcher's government introduced the right-to-buy programme in 1980, requiring local authorities to sell homes to tenants who wanted to buy them.

At the same time house prices have greatly increased, with the average property for a first-time buyer in Westminster costing almost 300,000.

'Long time ago'

A Westminster City Council spokesman said: "We are buying back homes that we owned in the first place. The right-to-buy scheme was a national scheme in which local authorities were obliged to take part.

"That was a long time ago. We are having to deal with housing problems in the 21st Century."

The council aims to buy 125 homes back over the next two years, rising to 200, which will also include private properties.

Dame Shirley was ordered to pay a 27m surcharge for misconduct following exposure of the scandal.

The disgraced ex-council leader subsequently spent 12 years in exile in Israel. No criminal charges were brought against her.

In 2004 Westminster City Council accepted 12.3m settlement from Dame Shirley.

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