UK Politics

Labour criticises housing figures used by Grant Shapps

Rooftops of houses
Image caption The UK Statistics Agency has admitted it is concerned about the use of housing figures

Labour has written to the UK Statistics Authority to complain at "consistent misrepresentation and misuse" of data by Housing Minister Grant Shapps.

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey set out six issues in a letter to authority chairman Andrew Dilnot.

These figures range from the supply of homes to the number of rough sleepers.

Mr Shapps said Mr Dromey had ignored the Labour government's "catastrophic" record which saw house building fall to its lowest level since the 1920s.

Mr Dilnot's predecessor has admitted that the authority was concerned about a "lack of coherence and clarity" in the presentation of housing figures.

Mr Dromey said he believed a "casual attitude to accuracy is not only confusing to the public but is obstructing genuine public debate".

He claimed that some of the statistics used were "factually incorrect or deliberately misleading".

In January this year, the then UK Statistics Authority chairman, Sir Michael Scholar, replied to a similar letter from Labour MP Nick Raynsford.

Sir Michael replied: "Looking at statistics on housing, house building and house prices more generally, the Statistics Authority has been concerned for some time that there is a lack of coherence and clarity in their public presentation."

He added: "I recently wrote to the minister for housing proposing that the Statistics Authority should be invited to carry out a formal assessment of the statistics produced by the Homes and Communities Agency and the Tenant Services Authority."

The invitation was not taken up by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Mr Shapps dismissed what he called Mr Dromey's "incomprehensible rant".

"Not only did his government fail to build more homes, despite the apparent good times, but they actually introduced programmes designed to destroy entire neighbourhoods," Mr Shapps said.

"Their housing market renewal programme bulldozed 10,000 homes, whilst only replacing 1,000. So just to be clear, no-one did more to destroy our nation's homes since the Luftwaffe bombs of World War II."

Labour said Mr Shapps' reference to the Luftwaffe was "outrageously misleading" and an "insult" to those who lived through the Blitz.

"The Audit Commission's analysis of Pathfinder in 2011 said it had refurbished more than 108,000 existing homes and attracted private investment to complete over 15,000 new homes," said shadow communities and local government secretary Hilary Benn.

He added: "We need the public debate on homes for the future to be held openly and honestly and not the subject of spin by a minister who is out of his depth and out of ideas."

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