It has been a point of some personal annoyance with myself, that the press coverage of Southend Borough Council’s joint administration — the first non-Conservative administration in the town for fourteen years has been dominated thusfar by Martin Terry’s non-announcements. Now, though, we have one of the first hard policy announcements: the building of the first new housing in the borough in some twenty years.
This was something that Labour campaigned heavily on, and in opposition Victoria’s Cllr David Norman led a review of potential sites for housebuilding. David is, of course, now the portfolio holder for Adult Social Care & Housing, and it is entirely because of the hard work that he put in that the administration can move so quickly on this.
Housing provision is in crisis the whole country over, but there is a particular need in Southend. Unlike some other places, Southend doesn’t have acres of empty fields to build new housing on, so we have to be imaginative. The sites identified for house building are all brownfield land, all disused, and in some cases even magnets for fly-tipping or anti-social behaviour.
Putting these areas to work for the town will be a fantastic step forward, and the 13 to 27 houses in the first wave alone will be 13 to 27 times more than was done under the Conservatives.
In the words of Cllr Norman:
“This is an exciting opportunity to build new council homes for the first time in decades and to begin to tackle the urgent need for good quality low cost accommodation in the town.
“Whilst more work needs to be done on looking at long term options for council housing, we have development funds available to pursue this pilot scheme. Part of this is time limited money including right to buy (RTB) receipts and section 106 planning contributions that if not spent will be handed back to central Government.
“We are committed to addressing local housing need and this pilot scheme could create between 13 and 27 new council homes that will be available for local people on the home seekers register.“
According to data from the charity Shelter, Southend had in 2013 some 5,676 people on housing waiting lists. the numbers we’re talking about today won’t fix that of course, but they are a first step on the way to a solution, and represent a real victory for Southend and the Labour Party.
This is what Labour in local government means. Things are happening, and only a month after the election we are already righting the wrongs under the last administration.