Page last updated at 09:25 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 10:25 UK

Councils 'need new housing power'

By Justin Parkinson
BBC News political reporter, Bournemouth

Homes for sale
The Lib Dems say the government did too little to stop the "housing bubble"

The Liberal Democrats are calling for councils to be given powers to buy up unsold or repossessed properties, in an effort to ease the housing crisis.

The party's autumn conference backed a scheme allowing local authorities and other social landlords to borrow against their assets to enable this.

The Lib Dem leadership also proposes more protection against "rogue doorstep companies" offering financial products.

It accused Labour of offering "token gestures" to struggling homeowners.

Safety net

Outlining the party's plans, Treasury spokeswoman Julia Goldsworthy said the government had been in a state of "denial and then panic" about the scale of the problems in the housing and mortgage markets.

In contrast, she said the Lib Dems had been the only "voice of reason" in identifying the bubble in mortgage lending which contributed to the Northern Rock crisis.

She reiterated calls for homeowners struggling with mortgage payments to be given extra help to renegotiate their loans so as to ensure people were only forced out of their homes as a "last resort".

The party is also backing a statutory code of practice for mortgage lenders and for all borrowers to be offered free financial advice.

Current social housing stock was "ill-equipped" to provide a safety net for those unable to get on the housing ladder or at risk of losing their home, she argued.

"We must take action to prevent a deepening in the crisis in social housing," she said.

Other debates later include ones on transport and European policy.

On Monday, the conference, in Bournemouth, voted to promise tax cuts for low and middle earners at the next general election.

The leadership says this can be funded using some of the 20bn it has earmarked for "efficiency savings" to public services.

The autumn conference, Nick Clegg's first as party leader, lasts until Wednesday.

Yorkshire Post Clegg's tax-cutting plans backed by Lib Dems in defeat for Left - 50 mins ago
Guardian Unlimited Lib Dems back tax and spending plans - 3 hrs ago
Birmingham Evening Mail Lib Dems back tax cut plans - 9 hrs ago
The Independent Lib Dems: We'll seize vital seats as Labour implodes - 12 hrs ago
The Scotsman Party 'risks losing more than half its MPs' - 13 hrs ago

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