Council defends its record over social housing builds

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Wigan Council has defended its record on building new social housing in the borough following criticism from opposition activists.

The local authority has spoken out after the borough’s Liberal Democrats called for Right to Buy schemes to be suspended in cases where vastly more council homes were being sold than constructed.

However mystery surrounds the actual number of social houses being built and sold off in the borough.

The Lib Dems’ Astley Mosley Common ward by-election candidate Stuart Thomas raised the issue after seeing Government data suggesting not a single new house had been built in the borough for around two years.

At the same time, the Westminster data suggests, exactly 400 homes had been sold off.

However Wigan Council’s own figures show quite a different picture, although one where the number of homes being taken out of provision and into private hands considerably outstrips the amount of new building.

The local authority says 454 homes have been sold under Right to Buy since April 1 2015, but 119 units have been built since 2015 and a further 121 are under constructed and scheduled to provide homes within the next few years.

Marie Bintley, assistant director for growth and housing, said 11 houses had recently been purchased from private developers and there were plans to build 130 affordable homes in the borough.

She added: "We are continuing to work hard on a number of housing developments and the council is using its own surplus land assets to facilitate this."

Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) figures suggest 400 homes have been sold in the borough under Right to Buy between quarter one of 2015-16 and quarter one of 2017-18.

In the same time period, the data suggests, no work started anywhere in the 10 unitary authorities of Greater Manchester and no homes were bought by councils under the Government’s replacement scheme.

Wigan Leigh and Makerfield Lib Dems chair Stuart Thomas said: "Under the Conservatives, building of affordable housing has plummeted, leading to longer waiting lists and more families struggling to pay their rent."

Stuart Thomas is standing for the Lib Dems in the Astley Mosley Common by-election. The other candidates are Paula Wakefield (Labour), John Stirzaker (Conservatives), Allan Hogg (Ukip) and Andy Prentice (Green).