Another day in the Lords, another day spent on the Localism Bill, in fact the first day of the Report Stage, which kicked off with an attempt by Lord Whitty to impose ten year housing strategies on local councils.
Before Clause 132, insert the following new Clause—
(1) All measures required of local housing authorities in relation to social housing and homelessness as a result of this Part shall be undertaken in consistency with the housing strategy required by subsection (3) and with requirements under section 87 of the Local Government Act 2003 and section 13 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, and regulations and guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
(2) All local housing authorities must draw up an analysis of housing supply and demand in their areas and neighbouring areas as far as is relevant.
This analysis should include all forms of tenure in their area and cover at least the following—
(a) trends in housing supply and demand in the owner occupied, private rented and social housing sectors;
(b) trends in housing prices and rents;
(c) new developments, new build and conversions;
(d) empty properties;
(e) second homes; and
(f) broad demographic and employment trends in their areas.
In other words, in a piece of legislation designed to give local authorities the freedom to explore new ways of doing things, Labour wanted to require them to plan their housebuilding strategy in the same way, regardless of whether or not it would be appropriate to do so. As Lord Shipley pointed out, "You do not actually need a 10-year housing strategy. You do need an acute, local awareness of housing demand and trends and an ability to be much more fleet of foot in meeting those trends than we have seen over the past two decades."
But it is worse than that. It represents an attempt to teach local authorities to suck eggs, in that you might reasonably expect local councillors and their supporting council officers to give these matters some thought in any event. Anyone would think that Labour had no confidence in their ability to think for themselves... although as they were one of the most centralising administrations in the history of our nation, they probably don't.
Labour Peers were out in force though, determined to test the view of the House on its first day back, so the amendment was pressed. Without significant rebellion from the Liberal Democrat benches though (Baroness Neuberger was the sole rebel), and with the crossbenchers still adjusting to their new leadership, the amendment fell by 197 votes to 164.