Peter Hoskin

Will Hughes succeed in stirring up trouble over Right to Buy?

Will Hughes succeed in stirring up trouble over Right to Buy?
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Simon Hughes led the angry response to David Cameron's thoughts on social housing, and now he's stirring it up again. In an interview with the South London Press – picked up by Sunder Katwala over at Next Left – the Lib Dem deputy leader has attacked the Right to Buy, saying that local councils should decide whether to offer it or not. Given the Thatcherite roots of the policy, there's a firecracker quality to Hughes's comments: lobbed into the debate, and designed to provoke the Tories.

I'm not sure the Tories will be too perturbed by Hughes's intervention, though. Of course many of them are proud and supportive of Thatcher's Right to Buy policy – and rightly so. But many also understand that it has its problems and, in the absence of new building, could well have contributed to that 5-million-person-long waiting list for social housing. Even Cameron's proposed solution may impose de facto limits on the Right to Buy. As Sunder explains:

"Yet, perhaps ironically, David Cameron's own proposals to remove security of tenure could well lead to the right to buy being lost or weakened, albeit by the back door. Tenants need to have five years residency to be eligible, so if fixed term tenancies were of a shorter length, the right would be lost by those tenants. And part of the point of the Cameron approach is for council housing to be still more focused on those in greatest need. If the result was to residualise council housing further predominantly among those out-of-work, then the right to buy will be rather more hypothetical anyway if fewer social housing tenants could afford to exercise it."

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