Livingstone gives housing warning to councils

Ken Livingstone has blamed Conservative and Liberal Democrat controlled councils for blocking housing developments in London.

The mayor of London told the Labour party conference there was an urgent need for more affordable housing in the Capital but local councils were frustrating targets by refusing to release land.

He warned councils he would be prepared to issue compulsory purchase orders if they persistently blocked developments.

Last week the mayor threatened to issue his first compulsory purchase order against Southwark council for refusing to release land near City Hall for development.

Mr Livingstone told delegates today he was “ashamed” every time he looked out of his office window at the empty land on the Potter’s Field site in south London.

The mayor said councils were wrong to blame the lack of new developments on targets for affordable housing. Instead he argued councils were adverse to anything that risked changing the “political complexion” or jeopardising their votes.

Addressing the conference in Bournemouth, Mr Livingstone said housing had been devastated before the Labour government restored the GLA to London.

The mayor said he had set the target of 50,000 new homes over the next three years. London then needed 31,000 new homes every year until we “break the back of the housing crisis.”

Mr Livingstone risked political unpopularity by saying there needed to be a “real attempt” to lower house prices to place them within reach of normal buyers.

But he also argued the importance of rented accommodation. He said 30 per cent of housing stock should remain in the rental sector for those who do not want to buy.

In one of the best received speeches of the week, Mr Livingstone said London proved investment could deliver results, pointing to the six per cent fall in reported crime after the Met increased the number of policeman on the beat.

He reiterated the need for Crossrail in the capital and appealed to the City to fund the missing two per cent of the budget.

Mr Livingstone also revealed he wants every publicly owned building in London to be retrofitted, arguing this would cut carbon emissions and create thousands of jobs.

He told delegates that councils in London and across the country have to value children more, adding he was “delighted” the government had restored the statutory duty on local authorities to provide youth services.

Mr Livingstone said City Hall will double the provision of youth services over the next two years, after the Development Agency matched the £40 billion funding already granted by Ed Balls.