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HOUSING CHIEFS' FEARS OVER PLANS FOR 'SINGLE POT'

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Housing professionals fear that the billions of pounds held by councils to spend on housing will instead go on 'new...
Housing professionals fear that the billions of pounds held by councils to spend on housing will instead go on 'new deal' employment, after details of the comprehensive spending review are announced.

The Independent (section 2, p17) reports that while local authorities favour greater flexibility in the use of the capital receipts from right-to-buy sales, allowing them to spend them on regeneration and job creation schemes, housing managers argue that the money is needed to renovate and build homes.

John Perry, acting chief executive of the Chartered Institue of Housing, says that there is consternation at proposals published in a recent consultation paper to integrate local authorities' housing investment programmes into the rest of their capital budgets.

The result could be that much of the£5bn of housing capital receipts held by councils would go on non-housing regeneration and employment projects - particularly in shire districts, where 70% to 80% of capital expenditure is currently on housing.

'There is a good case for a single pot, but not if you start with a massive backlog of repairs,' says Mr Perry. The institute estimates that£18bn to£20bn is urgently needed to bring the public housing stock up to good condition.

A spokesman for the department of the environment, transport and the regions said that, while he could not indicate the outcome of the consultation, he could confirm that guidelines on the implementation of the 'single pot' would be published shortly after the results of the spending review.

The Association of London Government says it has 'reservations' about creating a single pot, but recognises the benefits of giving councils more powers to decide spending priorities for themselves.

The Local Government Association, however, welcomes the idea. 'Our line has been that we want the restrictions on the use of capital receipts removed,' says Keith Beaumont, the LGA's head of capital.

The approach that the ALG would be a retention of the housing investment programme as a separate capital budget, which is approved by the government on the basis of a three-year rolling programme.

Only a strategic plan like this, they believe, will make worthwhile inroads into reversing the serious decline of public housing.

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