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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Right-to-buy's axing denied
North Eggham Estate, Peckham
Many council tenants have bought their homes
Downing Street has denied reports that the government is about to scrap council tenants' right to buy their home.

But Tony Blair's official spokesman confirmed that John Prescott's department of local government and the regions was looking at the need to stop abuses of the right-to-buy scheme.

We didn't say, you can buy your home and then become a landlord

Lord Rooker

These abuses, he said, include houses being bought up ahead of redevelopment in the hope of making money.

The spokesman said there were cases where housing estates were about to be knocked down and where properties were purchased in the hope that they would be repurchased compulsorily at inflated prices.

"Where the rules are being exploited, it would be neglectful of the government not to look at where we can curb abuse... but Downing Street is not aware that any decision have been taken to suspend the right to buy."

Flagship policy

Last week housing minister Lord Rooker told Labour's first rural conference told that they wanted to find a way to prevent council properties being bought cheaply and then let at inflated prices.

He said: "We didn't say, you can buy your home and then become a landlord."

More than a million people have taken advantage of the right-to-buy, which was a flagship policy of Margaret Thatcher's 1979 election manifesto.

But Labour is now concerned that the sale of council properties is cutting their ability to provide affordable housing in the South East for key workers such as teachers, nurses and other public sector workers.

Although Mr Rooker said no decision had been taken, Monday's Guardian newspaper says Mr Prescott department has drawn up proposals to suspend the right-to-buy in housing hotspots such as London, Leeds and York.

It likened Mr Prescott's efforts to provide affordable homes as pouring water into a bath with the plughole open - in 2000-2001 there were 18,000 affordable homes built for renting, while 53,000 English council properties were sold off.

In the past 20 years, 1.5 million council houses had been sold off, although there were still 2.7 million in local authority ownership.

Housing has been catapulted to the top of the political agenda, with John Prescott announcing plans for 200,000 affordable new homes for the South-East.


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21 Jul 02 | Politics
18 Jul 02 | Politics
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