As Ed Miliband’s problems with the trade unions persist, the future of the private rented sector has taken centre stage in the debate over the extent to which the unions do or do not influence the Party’s policies.
Just days after Unite, the largest union affiliated to the Labour Party, called for rent controls, the Shadow Housing Minister, Jack Dromey MP, himself a former Deputy General Secretary of the Union, was recorded as having told a Labour Party meeting in London, “Should you have a form of rent control to end ever-spiralling upward rent, particularly here in London, yes without hesitation, yes without hesitation.”
His comments, however, came despite the fact that in the same speech he concluded that it would be “difficult in the 21st century to make traditional rent controls work” because it would lead to a “loss of supply” of rental homes and “deter investment.”
The leaked comments were attacked by the Conservatives with the Party’s MP for Crawley and member of the All Party Group for Private Rented Housing, Henry Smith concluding, “Labour’s reckless gamble with rent controls would take us back to the 1970s: higher rents, fewer houses, and refurbishment would fall off a cliff. Clearly, Unite are buying Labour’s policy on rent controls.”
The episode led to Mr Dromey taking to the airwaves, telling the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme that Labour were opposed to rent controls but spoke of his concern that tenants in the sector “pay 41% of their disposable income on rent.”
With the Labour Party now set to base a General Election campaign around the cost of living, levels of rent in the private rented sector are likely to come under increasing scrutiny.
The RLA has been leading the case against controls with Alan Ward using guest pieces for Inside Housing and Guardian Online to outline the dangers of rent controls on investment in new homes. He will also be taking the message directly to the Labour Party at the RLA organised fringe event at the Party’s annual conference in Brighton later this month.
A campaign against rent controls will also be launched when MPs return from the conference recess based on research conducted by Professor Michael Ball for the RLA on the subject.
- See other Comment features Ed Jacobs has written for the RLA