Summer Budget (Supplementary) [4]

Session date: 
July 15, 2015
Question By: 
Tom Copley
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Tom Copley AM:  Thank you, Chair.  Mr Mayor, I wanted to ask you about the impact of the Budget on housing in London, particularly on the ability of the GLA to deliver its affordable housing programmes.  Could you tell me first of all if you support the Chancellor’s decision to cut social rents by 1% a year for the next four years?

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for Summer Budget (Supplementary) [4]

Answer for Summer Budget (Supplementary) [4]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  It is a good idea to bear down on social rents.  My general line on all these policies, Tom, is that they are acceptable if and only if they lead to the construction of more homes in London and more affordable homes.  As we have discussed earlier on in this place, I do not want to see boroughs being deprived of the funds they need to build and that is why I do have very strong concerns that the receipts from council house sales, for instance, should not go outside the city.  I want homes to be built here in London.

Tom Copley AM:  Absolutely, and we are going to come to that later on.  Just specifically on the 1% rent cut: you say that you do not want anything that will have a detrimental impact on the ability to deliver new affordable housing in London.  Do you think that forcing housing associations to cut rents by 1% year-on-year will lead to more or less affordable housing being built?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Look, I am in favour of lower rents and I thought you were, too.

Tom Copley AM:  I am.  I am also in favour of lower rents in the private rented sector but no one in the Government is offering to cut those.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  You are not in favour of lowering rents for the housing associations or for social housing?  Are you?

Tom Copley AM:  I hope you would support me, Mr Mayor, in saying to housing associations, “If we are going to have a 1% cut ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Are you in favour of lower rents?

Tom Copley AM:  Yes.  I am in favour of lower rents.  You are the one who imposed affordable rents on this city of up to 80% of market rents.  We on this side opposed your hike in rents.  Do not come here and lecture us about rent levels, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am lecturing you.  I am just pointing it out.  I did not lecture you.  I was just rather surprised to hear you were against a rent cut.  That is all.

Tom Copley AM:  Mr Mayor, as I have said, you and the Government imposed the 80% so-called ‘affordable’ rent on London.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  You know perfectly well it is not --

Tom Copley AM:  You said to housing associations, “You have to get your income from rents and from borrowing”.  By forcing housing associations to cut rents, you are reducing their ability to raise finance to build homes.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I do think you have to get your story straight.  You are either in favour of higher rents or in favour of lower rents.  Which is it?

Tom Copley AM:  I am in favour of lower rents, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Then you should vote for the Budget.

Tom Copley AM:  I am also in favour of more housebuilding and I am also in favour of you answering the questions.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I have answered the question.  You should vote for the Budget and support the ‑‑

Tom Copley AM:  You have not answered the question that I put to you, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I have.  I just have.

Tom Copley AM:  Let me put it to you again.  Do you think that cutting social rents by 1% year-on-year will result in more or fewer affordable homes being built in London?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  We will have more homes being built in London irrespective of the rent cut and the rent cut is well tolerable provided we get other policies right.

Tom Copley AM:  The Office of Budget Responsibility says that the rent cut will lead to 14,000 fewer homes being built across the country and the National Housing Federation estimates that it will lead to 27,000 fewer.  What information do you have above and beyond what they have that suggests that you are right and they are wrong?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I would simply point out and look at the record, which is that we have been able to deliver a record number of affordable homes so far.  Provided we get some things right - and I have alluded to one crucial thing, which is keeping the receipts from council house sales and other aspects of the policy - here in London, we will continue to build houses.

Tom Copley AM:  We are coming to that later, but this is going forward, Mr Mayor.  You have pledged to deliver ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  As I might point out, if you had been at the meeting of the London Land Commission on Monday, you would have seen how dynamically we are now approaching house construction in London.  Let me tell you.  We are now building more homes ‑‑

Tom Copley AM:  You have pledged, Mr Mayor, have you not; between 2015 and 2018, you have committed to building 42,000 homes.  The Government’s decision to cut the rents ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I thought you were in favour of rent cuts.

Tom Copley AM:  ‑‑ which I would of course have welcomed, without any commensurate increase in grant, will take £3.9 billion out of housing associations across the country.  How many of those 42,000 homes will now not be delivered?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I thought you were in favour of rent cuts.  I am very surprised that you wish to raise rents for people in housing associations and council homes.

Tom Copley AM:  I have no wish to raise rents, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  The people of London deserve to hear that this is the new policy of the Labour Party.

Tom Copley AM:  I have no wish to raise rents.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  It does seem to me to be extraordinary, but if that really is what you are saying, Tom, it is one of the most staggering U-turns I have ever seen.

Tom Copley AM:  I am in favour of building more affordable homes, which is what I thought you were in favour of, but clearly you are not.  You cannot tell me how many homes this will result in not being built.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Let us stop this now.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I can tell you how many homes we are building and how many we are going to build.  I can tell you about the record number of homes we are delivering, if you like.  Shall I?

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Mr Copley, do you have any more questions?

Tom Copley AM:  No.