Tempers flare in housing debate

IPSWICH: A furious row blew up at last night’s full council meeting over the future of social housing.

The opposition Labour group put down a motion calling on the borough to support security of tenure for all social housing tenants.

The motion was tabled after prime minister David Cameron indicated that he thought one way of easing housing waiting lists could be offer fixed tenancies of at least five years to ensure there were not as many people living in homes that were too large or too small for them.

Labour housing spokesman John Mowles – a former chairman of the borough’s housing committee – proposed the motion warning that the government’s proposal could spell the end of a home for life.

He said: “The home is the very heart of the family. When people move into a council house they know they are going to have a home for life and it is wrong to try to change that.

“It may be that later in life they might prefer to move to a smaller home which is more manageable but that should only happen if they want to move.”

He hoped the Conservative/LibDem administration at Grafton House would agree to the motion, but instead current housing spokesman Richard Pope tabled an amendment.

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This supported secured tenancy for everyone currently in social housing, but said that future tenancies would meet all legal requirements.

Mr Pope said there was a huge waiting list for social housing – more than 5,000 people in Ipswich and about 1.8 million people across the country.

“There have to be new ways of tackling this. We would like to see more homes being built but there also has to be another look at tenancy agreements.”

Liberal Democrat Nigel Cheeseman had hoped it would be possible to have a debate on an important subject like housing without splitting down party political lines.

He said: “This is such an important subject, we need to have a responsible debate about it.”

However it was during the summing up that the debate really got heated with Mr Pope shouting at the Labour opposition that their government had left housing policy in a mess that the new government would have to sort out.

He became so heated that mayor Jane Chambers had to warn him to calm down!

Eventually the amendment defeated the original motion and was passed as the council split straight down party lines in the final vote.