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City's affordable homes decline 'shocking', claims MP
THE number of affordable homes built in Worcester has plunged 35 per cent, it has emerged.
New figures from Worcester City Council have revealed how just 76 were built over the last year, compared to 117 the previous year.
Worcester MP Robin Walker has called the fall "shocking" and accused the old Labour-led council administration of "taking the city backwards".
The tally of 76 is below the council's own target of 80 and is one of the lowest figures in the city this century.
It comes despite the council's previous Labour leadership, which lost control earlier this month, pledging to make affordable housing a priority.
Mr Walker said: "I was always worried Labour’s delivery on affordable housing would not match up with their rhetoric but I never expected to see such a sharp decline.
"I deal with all too many cases at my surgeries where a lack of affordable housing is harming families and individuals in Worcester.
"Labour’s failure to deliver in the last year is a very real concern.
"These figures are the last nail in the coffin of the credibility of the outgoing administration.
"They made so much of their plans to focus on affordable housing but like Labour administrations of the past, both local and national, they utterly failed to deliver."
Between 2001 and 2005 an average of 84 affordable homes were delivered each year in Worcester.
From 2005 to 2009 it increased further to an average of 148, and from 2009-2012 it was 91.
In 2012/13 it then went to 117, before the sharp drop in the last financial year which finished at the end of March.
Labour has rejected the criticism by saying it only had one year in office, and insisted many factors affecting house building were outside of its control.
In September last year, while in power Labour did approve £1.2 million towards new affordable property in the city, which is available for housing associations to bid for between now and 2016.
Because the deadline for bids only passed in May the results will only begin to show in future years.
Councillor Geoff Williams, former Labour deputy leader, criticised the target as "a work of fiction" and said the Government must do more to help.
"The figure is bound to go up or down depending on what schemes are about in Worcester and what the planning committee can negotiate," he said.
"Next year as a result of measures like (the £1.2 million) it could go up and then I presume the Tories will try and take credit for that - it's spurious to try and get political capital from these figures.
"The Government needs to give much more money to housing associations, he'd be better off asking for that."
There are around 2,300 people on a waiting list for affordable homes in the city.
* YOUR Worcester News will publish more on this story in tomorrow's newspaper.
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