Council meeting descended into chaos over claims about South Tyneside having 'rubbish' council houses

A political debate descended into a shouting match after a South Tyneside councillor accused town hall bosses of advertising “rubbish housing”.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th September 2019, 2:43 pm
The South Tyneside Council meeting was held on Thursday, September 5.

The Labour group on South Tyneside Council tabled a motion to mark the 100-year anniversary of the Addison Act (1919), at the full council meeting on Thursday, September 5.

The landmark legislation aimed to create “homes fit for heroes” and paved the way for large-scale council housing.

Labour’s motion called for more government support after the national ‘right to buy’ policy saw many council homes removed from the market.

Council leader, Iain Malcolm.

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While South Tyneside Council bosses said they had a strong record in providing council housing, opposition councillors said more should be done.

Leader of the independent group, Coun John Robertson, criticised the authority for a recently approved development in the Lakes Estate, Jarrow.

The 62-home estate came from applicant Centaurea Homes Ltd – a company set up by the council to develop housing for sale.

At the meeting, Coun Robertson described the move as an “insult to the Addison Act” stating there was a “desperate requirement for social housing”.

Coun John Robertson

But it was his comments that council housing firm South Tyneside Homes “advertise rubbish houses” that sparked a row.

Labour council leader, Coun Iain Malcolm said the comments were an “absolute disgrace.”

He told the meeting: “Reject the nonsense that South Tyneside Homes has rubbish housing.

“Stop getting a bee in your bonnet about South Tyneside Homes councillor and support your own housing company and support the motion.

“I represent one of the biggest housing estates in South Tyneside and I’ll tell you, those houses are fit for purpose.”

In the exchange between the councillors, Coun Robertson was heard shouting “from your ivory tower”.

The row followed a bid to amend the motion by Green Party councillor David Francis.

Main points included a “rigorous needs analysis” on housing types most needed in the borough and building social housing in line with projected needs.

Coun Francis also called for a percentage of homes to be built to the “lifetime home standard” – a set of design points around accessible and adaptable homes.

While Labour’s Angela Hamilton, backing the amendment, stressed more council homes needed to be built.

“We need to be lobbying this government for more money so that we can build council houses, houses that won’t be an option of last resort for people but a genuine choice of a place to live,” she said.

Coun Iain Malcolm said council officers were already carrying out many asks put forward in the amendment.

This included looking at demographic changes under the council’s housing strategy and reviewing existing stock.

Cabinet member for housing and transport, Coun Mark Walsh, also defended the council’s record around council housing.

This included going “over and above” to provide quality housing under the ‘Decent Homes Standards’.

He added: “Our homes in this borough are well above the national standards for decent homes and it’s something we should be absolutely proud of in this borough and it’s something we will stand by.

“Going forward, we will develop our plans to make sure that they’re sustainable, environmentally-friendly and fit for purpose for the mixed demographics we have across the borough.”

Following a vote, the amendment was defeated by majority vote with the original motion agreed.

The agreed motion reads:

Addison Act Centenary

The Council notes that:

The recent centenary of the Addison Act highlighted the progress that has been made in relation to council housing and improvements made to properties within South Tyneside.

With the borrowing cap being lifted Councils are now able to start building new houses. We need to consider what type of housing is needed to meet the needs of our residents. We need to concentrate more on the quality of housing rather than the quantity.

We are experiencing an ageing population and we need to consider the best accommodation and support which suits the needs of these residents and their continuing changing needs. Provision for adequate and adaptable housing needs to be made within the emerging Local Plan.

To support the motion that was carried at the last Borough Council to declare an emergency on climate change we need to ask for appropriate funding for sustainable housing. Ensuring that housing and communities are developed to reduce their impact on the environment and ensure they are able to adapt to the challenges of our changing climate.

When the Government announced the Budget in 2017 and pledged for 300,000 houses to be built per year by 2021 this was to address the prevalent housing and homelessness crisis across the UK. This resulted in a national formula being used to identify how many homes each authority will need to supply through their Local Plan. The local authority must continue to assess what type of housing is needed whilst driving up standards of housing across the borough; and hence apply to Government for the relevant amount of funding.

Funding from Government is vital in aiding us to provide the right housing for all of the Borough’s residents and make best use of stock, we ask the Council to support this Motion to apply to the Government for extra funding where appropriate.

This Council resolves to:

Note the success of council housing since the introduction of the Addison Act 100 years ago; Note the Council’s ambition to develop and build modern, sustainable and environmentally friendly homes to meet the varied needs of the residents of South Tyneside as outlined in our Integrated Housing Strategy; Ask the Chief Executive to lobby government for additional powers that will enable local authorities to both build affordable homes and to work with partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors to ensure residents have access to the best homes available.