With the start of the New Year, the 2019 elections to Canterbury City Council are coming into focus.
City Lib Dems – battling to overturn a sizeable Conservative majority – are accusing the present administration of failing to do enough to create adequate housing provision.
They charge the Conservatives with not building “a single council house for seven years” – an assertion council leader Simon Cook countered by insisting that units were in the pipeline.
And Lib Dems point out that the council is making just 90 affordable homes available each year, below a target of 240.
Lib Dem leader and Westgate ward councillor Mike Dixey said: “A Lib Dem council will make housing a priority. We will immediately make funds available to begin building new social housing.
“Labour is absorbed in a perpetual state of infighting. Only the Lib Dems can provide a speedy, competent and effective solution to this housing crisis.”
Alex Lister, who is standing in Westgate ward for the Lib Dems in May, added: “When I meet people whose lives are being ruined by this Tory council’s failure to act, it fills me with a quiet rage.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that somewhere like Canterbury treats people like this. Labour seems to more worried about what’s going on in Israel than looking after people on its own doorstep.”
Some 2,500 people are listed on the council’s housing waiting list.
Despite the figure, the Conservatives insist they are striving to deal with issues the authority faces.
Cllr Cook, who has led the council since the last election in 2015, said: “Since 2015, the city council have bought well in excess of a hundred homes to use as social housing – this includes the properties in Parham Road as well as individual houses and flats.
“Residents who are on our social housing list want a home. They don’t care whether the council built it or bought it, and this is a meaningless, artificial distinction.
“But it’s also untrue to say the city council isn’t building social housing. Permission has been granted for five houses on Kingsmead Field which will start construction shortly, and there are several other schemes in the pipeline.
“Housing is complicated and there’s no one simple solution.”
Canterbury City Council presently consists of 28 Conservatives, two Independent, four Labour councillors, four Lib Dems and one member of the newly created Foundation Party.
The city council election takes place on Thursday, May 2.