All talk and no action: Labour peer on Shapps

A Labour peer has hit out at housing minister Grant Shapps, accusing him of using housing policies to grab headlines.

Lord Jeremy Beecham made the comments in a debate in the House of Lords on January 19.

During the debate into the government¹s housing strategy, Beecham reminded the House of a speech Shapps made after being appointed, in which he claimed it was “easy for a housing minister to catch your eye with a headline, but much harder to deliver more homes”.

Beecham went on to say: “He spoke whereof he knew, because there have been 127 announcements on housing since Shapps’ appointment ­ about six a month.

“However, in the new-start figures for 2010/11, there was a reduction of 7%. All this has, of course, been accompanied by a 60% cut in the provision for affordable homes. There will be more announcements to come, but most of the action plan consists of announcements,consultations and reports, rather than any actual building.”

During the debate, Beecham claimed: “A century ago, your Lordships’ House was described as ’Mr Balfour’s poodle’. I do not know if communities secretary Eric Pickles has a poodle, but in the shape of Shapps he certainly has a Jack Russell who is lively and busy.”

In response to the comments, a ministerial spokesman tells Mortgage Strategy: “We should take no lectures from Labour. Despite nine housing ministers and 10 housing-related acts, house building under Labour fell to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s. That speaks for itself.”

Also during the debate, Conservative Baroness Trixie Gardner hit out at Barclays for its lending policy on high-rise properties, one other lenders also have.

She says Barclays classes anything above seven floors as high-rise and restricts lending on former local authority properties.

During the debate Gardner branded Barclays out of date.

She went on to say: “There is something wrong if people now say that these blocks, particularly if they are social housing, are not acceptable for mortgages. Unless people get mortgages, how will we increase home ownership?”

But a spokeswoman for Barclays says it does lend on properties over seven storeys high, it simply undertakes additional checks before approving the mortgages.

She says: “We exercise particular caution with ex-local authority properties, considering the construction and future saleability, and we listen to our valuer¹s recommendations as to whether a property is suitable security for a mortgage.”