Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey has entered into a war of words with housing minister Grant Shapps, accusing him of making false claims about the state of the UK housing market.
He has accused Shapps of misrepresentation and misuse of official housing and homelessness data.
Dromey has lodged a complaint against Shapps with the UK Statistics Authority, claiming his casual attitude to facts and figures is confusing the public and obstructing debate.
In his letter to the UK Statistics Authority – an independent body which aims to promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics, he lists six examples of occasions where he alleges Shapps has misused data.
He has called for the body to carry out a formal assessment of the statistics produced by the Homes and Communities Agency and the Tenant Services Authority.
But Shapps has dismissed Dromey’s claims as an incomprehensible rant. He says: “Not only did his government fail to build more homes, it introduced programmes designed to destroy entire neighbourhoods.
“Its housing market renewal programme bulldozed 10,000 homes, while only replacing 1,000. No-one did more to destroy our nation’s homes since the Luftwaffe bombs of World War II.”
The argument was ignited again last week when Shapps appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to comment on Homes and Communities Agency figures that show the number of affordable housing starts for 2011/12 was just 15,698 – a 68% fall on the previous year.
But the figures show an uplift in the six months between October and March to 17,858 compared to 2,109 in the previous six months.
Despite both figures being less than half the previous year’s totals, Shapps has hailed them as dramatic progress.
He says: “The figures show work has started on over 15,000 affordable homes since last September – a massive increase on the previous six-month period. This is clear evidence that our efforts to get Britain building are starting to yield impressive results.”