‘Labour claims are incorrect’

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CONSERVATIVE councillors have refuted Labour claims that council housing tenants could be hit with a £160 million bill next March.

Peter Geary, Milton Keynes Council cabinet member responsible for property and accommodation, said this week: “The report they have put together is factually incorrect and, quite frankly, is scaremongering.

“The Labour group agreed to our plans in the latest cabinet meeting, now they’re going against it. We need to have some consistency.”

On Thursday the government published a paper which set out the requirement that Milton Keynes should pay the government £160 million as part of the move to self financing on the housing revenue account (HRA) – the ring-fenced account in which all income and expenditure on council housing must be contained.

Earlier last week, Tory bosses leading Milton Keynes Council had to withdraw a report on the housing asset management strategy on Tuesday, following an intervention by Labour councillor Brian White, because it was not comprehensive and took no account of the finances needed or the regeneration needs of the city.

The HRA Asset Management Strategy report identified that £180 million of investment is required.

But that report failed to take account of the £160 million bill from the government.

It also did not consider how the council’s HRA may be able to fund new council housing.

Councillor Nigel Long, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “The council is getting itself in a mess.

“It needs to find £180 million of housing investment, and around £80 million to buy the HCA assets such as land.

“On top of all this it has to pay by next March the £160 million bill that the Chancellor has sent tenants.

“The council is beginning to look a mess and we will be pushing the complacent Tory cabinet bosses to ensure they properly address these matters.”

But Councillor Geary hit back by saying that the £160 million would be taken on by the council and paid off and when all was said and done they would be £2 million better off – money he was keen to use to improve housing around the city.

The Labour group believes the Tories are failing to get on top of the investment and debt issues and that because they are biased against council housing they are being complacent about the government’s £160 million bill that is being sent to tenants.

Councillor Long added: “There is a real question about the competence of the Tory cabinet on this matter. They will have to pay their government’s Bill.”