Council Mortgage Scheme Switch from Housing Local People to Selling Local Houses

08:08 Thursday 13th October 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Peterborough City Council’s mortgage scheme is “bonkers”, according to one city councillor. The Council wants to invest £1 million into the scheme, which could help first-time buyers with up to 20% of a deposit, and then get them a 75% mortgage on top of that. Ed Murphy is the Labour councillor for Ravensthorpe. He was unhappy with the original plan, and wanted officials to add a clause that meant only local people could benefit from the idea. (TAPE)
ED MURPHY: I was particularly unhappy at the scheme in the first place, putting money, up to £10 million into a toxic bank, when they should be doing other things to improve housing. And to be frank, this is a Government initiative that needs to be taken. The Government needs to do something about growth, not locally. And then, last night, we had a report from the Council saying, nationally, the bank concerned, Lloyds, have said, oh no no, you can’t do it anyway. It has to be a national scheme. Upon questioning, the scheme that the Council have agreed to go ahead under this Conservative administration, would be open to anybody in the world. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: The clause was deemed illegal, and has had to be removed. And Councillor Murphy now says the crazy scheme could see people from across the world apply for a mortgage and come and live in Peterborough. (TAPE)
ED MURPHY: The scheme will apply to people throughout the world. So Bangladesh could phone up and be interested in it. Yes? It’s as crazy as that. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well Blackpool Council have run a scheme for two months. They’ve had 16 applications, 9 of which have been approved. Steve Thompson is the Chief Financial Officer there. He explained how they’ve made theirs legal. (TAPE)
STEVE THOMPSON: The loans only relate to properties within the borough. Now that could be for existing residents, or people migrating to Blackpool. And our members, and we have cross-party support on this initiative, are quite happy to use this as an incentive to actually attract people to Blackpool, to actually migrate labour into Blackpool. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well Councillor David Seaton is Cabinet Member for Resources at Peterborough City Council. Morning David.
DAVID SEATON: Morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: How are we going to make our scheme local then? We don’t want to be giving money away to Bangladeshis, or people from South Africa or Australia do we?
DAVID SEATON: I tell you what Paul. Harry Truman said a pessimist can see a difficulty in every opportunity, and Ed Murphy is the Victor Meldrew of pessimists. I bet he never jumped in a haystack when he was a child, because he was worried about needles. It’s just .. he’s a bit bonkers, but we’re a broad church, and we’ll let him have his say of course.
PAUL STAINTON: Does he not have a point though?
DAVID SEATON: Well we’ll be advertising this in Peterborough. It’s a great opportunity for young people in Peterborough to get on the housing ladder. Initially we hoped to help 40 to 50 young people. We could extend that to 400 to 500. I think the point is that Labour introduced through the FSAs something called “treating customers fairly”. We wanted this to just be for people living in Peterborough. Their guidelines day that we can’t do that. We have to open it up more widely to people across the country. You know, those are the guidelines, we have to go with them.
PAUL STAINTON: OK. How are you going to stop then people just applying for mortgages, say, in Luton?
DAVID SEATON: Well they have to apply for a mortgage on a house in Peterborough. So it’s got to be a house that is within our local authority area.
PAUL STAINTON: Their first house? Or ..
DAVID SEATON: Yes.They’re first time buyers. So young people who are first time buyers, wanting to buy a house in Peterborough, will very shortly have a great package to help them get on the property market.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. OK. So it’s open to anybody. As long as they’re buying a house in Peterborough, you’re not really bothered where they live.
DAVID SEATON: Unfortunately those are the guidelines. We would like to have restricted it to just Peterborough people. Guidelines say we can’t do that. I think it’s still a great opportunity. It doesn’t stop any local young people who live in Peterborough applying for these mortgages.
PAUL STAINTON: If you want to carry on and do it though, haven’t we wasted an inordinate amount of time on something that could have been found out straight away? Putting this clause in, couldn’t you have just rung the solicitors and said, can we put this clause in? Oh no it’s illegal. All right, we’ll get on with it this way then. It’s taken a year.
DAVID SEATON: It hasn’t taken a year Paul. We took this to the last Council meeting, and agreed it against Labour opposition. They clearly don’t want young people to get on the housing ladder. We’ve brought it back to Council this time, because we had agreed with the local Lloyds people, they were happy, but their legal eagles say we need to make a tweak. There are other councils are having to do this as well. So we’ve done it, and we’ll get it onto the market, this product, as soon as we can.
PAUL STAINTON: What is the time frame on that?
DAVID SEATON: I certainly expect it to be available by Christmas. I would like it to be available by the end of November. Now we’ve got the go ahead, we’ll do it as quickly as possible as we can.
PAUL STAINTON: Is there a revolt in the Tory Party on the Council, by the way? nIs there a revolt going on? You were all voting against the Town Hall plans, weren’t you, and you had a bit of a meeting, and it got thrown out?
DAVID SEATON: Well I think Labour are big enough to have a revolt in a phone box. We have good old debates all the time behind closed doors. Of course we do. That’s they way of politics.
PAUL STAINTON: But Marco had a big plan, didn’t he, to lease the Town Hall? You all went against him did you?
DAVID SEATON: No. There was a story in the press that we were going to sell the Town Hall. And that was absolutely wrong. Marco’s been on your show twice now and said that’s wrong. I was on the other day and said it’s wrong.
PAUL STAINTON: There was a plan to lease it though, wasn’t there?
DAVID SEATON: People were concerned that there were guarantees around what would happen to the Town Hall. And so we said, let’s give it a bit more time. Let’s make sure those concerns are addressed before we go forward. That was all about providing the best accommodation for the Council going forward. It wasn’t a story about the Town Hall, but that’s how it came over.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. But this plan, is it the first setback for Marco since he became Leader, isn’t it I think?
DAVID SEATON: I think he’s built some terrific stuff since he became Leader. I think if Marco had his way, we would be moving at a much faster pace. He’s always frustrated we can’t do things more quickly. Set back? No I don’t think so.
PAUL STAINTON: OK. Are you ringing us on your iPhone this morning?
DAVID SEATON: (LAUGHS) What? My iPhone that is costing the Council less, far less on its phones contract than it used to?
DAVID SEATON: Actually I think the iPhone’s about £14 a month.
DAVID SEATON: And I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate an iPhone for £14 a month.
DAVID SEATON: It lets me get my emails as well Paul. .. You know, on the m,ove, anywhere. Councillors are available 24/7. They need to be able to access what’s going on, the emails, the phone calls they get, iPhone is just another way of doing it.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. How’s the iPad trial going?
DAVID SEATON: (SIGHS) Yes, it’s OK. It’s OK. I’m not sure about it replacing the laptop. Again, on the move, last night, in Council, I was able to access something very quickly, some information that I’d got.
DAVID SEATON: That I wanted to share with Council, to inform them about some work on verge parking in Dogsthorpe. It was there at my fingertips. I don’t have to carry a pile of paper with me everywhere I go. So, you know, from that perspective ..
PAUL STAINTON: Useful. Yes . well listen, if you need us to trial any of that new technology, just give us a shout. OK? Because ..
DAVID SEATON: I think the BBC’s got plenty of technology.
PAUL STAINTON: You’d be amazed my friend. We’ve got some cans and a couple of pieces of string. That’s all we’ve got. Can’t afford it. Can’t afford it Dave. David Seaton, Cabinet Member for Resources at Peterborough City Council.