The Conservatives have pledged to match Labour’s commitment to dismantle the housing revenue account if they gain power, shadow housing minister Grant Shapps has told LGC.
Mr Shapps said the housing revenue account (HRA) was a “dog’s dinner”, and gave the clearest indication yet that his party would end central collection and redistribution would of rental revenues.
“We don’t want to end up punishing those who’ve behaved well,” he said. “But we can’t carry on with the current system because it works against efficient housing management and provides disincentives to manage stock well.”
He added: “It would be desirable to reform the current system and stop central collection and redistribution.”
Commenting on incumbent housing minister John Healey’s efforts to reform the account by brokering a voluntary solution, Mr Shapps said: “Whether Healey’s right, I don’t know… I hope he gets it fixed. If he hasn’t and we do win [the election], it’ll be an early priority for us.”
Mr Shapps’ comments followed a speech in which he outlined plans to place residents at the heart of council decision making.
He said a Tory government would work with pioneering local authorities and housing agencies to encourage the establishment of a partnership with residents to regerate communities, modelled on the approach trialled by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
He singled out the Decent Homes programme for criticism, saying the “blunt, target orientated approach” had missed what really mattered to people on the ground and promised to provide communities with “the power and resources to implement urgent change directly”.
Mr Shapps’ comments came days after shadow communities secretary Caroline Spelman advised Conservative council leaders to delay major commercial and housing developments until a Tory administration gets into power.
In a letter to Conservative council leaders, Ms Spelman said the party will introduce a local government and housing bill in their first year of office: “Even before primary legislation is passed, local authorities will have the ability to put the brakes on elements of Regional Spatial Strategies which they find undesirable (for example, Green Belt reviews imposed on them by the RSS).”