Boroughs to get greater control of housing budgets

Boris Johnson and London Councils have put forward plans for London boroughs to take greater control of their housing budgets, as part of a proposed devolution package from Whitehall to London.

Together the Mayor and London Councils have released A Framework for Devolved Delivery, which would give boroughs greater autonomy over housing budgets, place them at the forefront of negotiations with developers and give them more responsibility to ensure the needs of their local communities are being addressed.

By signing up to a voluntary Devolved Delivery Agreement, participating boroughs would have an agreed indicative housing budget set for the duration of the spending round to help them address their housing and regeneration priorities. In turn, a borough would commit to making better use of resources, deliver more affordable housing and contribute to the delivery of the London Housing Strategy. The Mayor is already more than half way towards delivering 50,000 affordable homes.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is responsible for allocating more than 80 per cent of the housing funding for London. Under devolved delivery, the Mayor and the London Housing Board which includes borough representatives will agree an indicative budget for boroughs, allowing them to allocate this funding according to London-wide and individual priorities.

Boris Johnson said: I firmly believe we should empower Londons boroughs so that more decisions are taken directly by those in the communities they affect”, while Jules Pipe added: Boroughs are firmly of the view that decisions about how housing budgets should be spent are best placed in the hands of boroughs, who understand the complex needs of their local communities. This framework is a good example of Londons local and regional government coming together to develop and deliver an innovative approach to devolution on an issue which has a huge impact on Londoners across the capital.”

David Lunts, London director of the HCA, said: This initiative is a logical next step and we look forward to working with the Mayor and the boroughs to make it happen.

Devolved Delivery Agreements would be entirely voluntary and boroughs can choose to participate but are not required to do so. The Mayor and London Councils hope this approach will avoid the trap of the agreements becoming watered down pacts that have been enforced upon local authorities regardless of their capacity or enthusiasm for devolved housing delivery.

In return for signing up to an agreement, the boroughs would be required to ensure they have in place housing policies that meet the objectives of the London Housing Strategy, and agree a broad set of outcomes with the Mayor that ensures both London-wide and local housing needs are met.

The consultation follows discussions between the GLA, London Councils, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and the Department of Communities and Local Government, on the devolution of the HCAs functions in the capital to London government.  It is expected that this will be confirmed in legislation to be introduced by ministers in the autumn.

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