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Bob Kerslake attacks right-to-buy plan

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Former head of civil service and new Peabody chair will use maiden speech in House of Lords to urge re-think

The former head of the civil service will tomorrow (2 June) use his maiden speech in the House of Lords to attack the government’s right-to-buy housing policy.

Bob Kerslake, head of the civil service until last year and, before his departure in February, the most senior official at the Department for Communities and Local Government, will denounce the plan to extend right-to-buy to 1.3million housing association tenants.

Kerslake, who officially started in his role as chair of housing association Peabody today (1 June), told the Observer: ‘I will raise my serious concerns about the policy in its current form. I think it’s wrong in principle and wrong in practice, and it won’t help tackle the urgent need to build more housing and more affordable housing in this country, particularly in London.’

It is understood that Kerslake, a crossbench peer and also a former chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), will urge the government to hold urgent discussions with housing experts in order that the policy is re-thought.

The proposed extension of right-to-buy, announced in the Conservative manifesto, would give housing association tenants discounts of up to £102,700 in London and £77,000 across the rest of England with councils required to sell off 15,000 of their most expensive homes each year as they became vacant to fund the scheme.

The plan provoked a storm of criticism when it was first unveiled in April with objectors including the CBI and architect and Housing Forum chairman Ben Derbyshire, who warned that the government’s arithmetic on housing supply and demand ‘just does not stack up’.

Also writing in this weekend’s Observer, architecture critic Rowan Moore called the plan “terrible” and a “bad imitation of Thatcherism”.

He wrote: ‘It will increase the division between those who own properties and those who do not, raise rents, segregate cities, fuel house price inflation and increase the number of homes that are owned as units of speculation.

‘There will be no social justice in the fact that it will give some people huge benefits and make life worse for others.’

The RIBA has so far not criticised the extension of right-to-buy. Responding last week to the Queen’s Speech - which set out the government’s legislative programme for the next parliament - an RIBA press release called the plan ‘controversial’.

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