THE Conservative Party's pledge to extend the Right to Buy
scheme to 1.3 million families in housing association homes could
be the "most blatant transfer of charity assets to private
ownership since Henry VIII sold off the monasteries", the
Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said on Wednesday.
The policy, announced in the party's manifesto on Tuesday, would
offer tenants discounts worth up to £102,700 in London, and £77,000
in the rest of England - much higher than existing discounts
available to about 800,000 tenants.
The CEO of the National Housing Federation, David Orr, described
it as "comprehensively the wrong solution", entailing "the transfer
of huge sums of money to private individuals who are already some
of the best- and most cheaply housed people in the country".
It was unfair, he said, to the nine million people in rented
accommodation who had "no chance of becoming social tenants, and
therefore no chance of benefiting from this bonanza". Mr Orr argues
that forcing associations to sell would be against the law as it
Dr Walker, who served on the board of the Federation from 1996
to 2002, described the policy on Twitter as "economic nonsense
"All the evidence is that, when a council house is sold, you do
not get one-for-one replacement, but around one for every 11," he
said. "What this is doing is reducing the supply of rental housing
right at the moment when it is most needed for those who have the
The pastoral letter from the House of Bishops (News, 20
February) had warned against "Dutch-auction" politics in the
run-up to the election.
There were plenty of promises in the manifestos published this
week, as well as echoes of the sort of politics prescribed by the
The Labour manifesto asserted that "too much power is
unaccountable, concentrated in the market and the state, at the
expense of individuals and their communities", and refers to "the
common good" four times.
The Conservative manifesto sets out plans to build the "Big
Society" praised by the Bishops, and says that volunteering is now
at a ten-year high. It recognises that churches play "an important
and long-standing role in this country's social fabric". (Churches
are not mentioned by name in either the Labour or Liberal Democrat
The Bishops' letter called for policies to address climate
change. On Monday the director of policy and public affairs at
Christian Aid, Christine Allen, said that Labour's low-carbon
target for the power sector would "get Britain back on track" to
shift to a low-carbon model; "but the manifesto neglects to mention
the urgent need to phase out unabated coal use".
The Conservative manifesto contains a number of "green" pledges,
including "cutting carbon emissions as cheaply as possible". This
was "wise", Ms Allen said, but "they need a more coherent long-term
plan for reducing emissions across the economy."
The Liberal Democrats have a raft of pledges, including five
"Green Laws" including a new legally binding target to bring
greenhouse-gas emissions to zero by 2050.
Christian Aid has carried out an analysis of the parties' bids
to tackle tax injustice. The Labour manifesto included "some of the
most vital tax- fairness reforms", Ms Allen said; but she also
praised Mr Cameron for getting "international tax reform moving, as
well as championing vital public registers of who really owns
She was "disappointed" that the Conservative manifesto did not
commit the party to "further tackling dodgy tax practices in the
Crisis welcomed the Liberal Democrats' commitment to protecting
benefits for those in the 18-21 age group. The policy is shared by
UKIP, which would also take assessments for fitness-to-work away
from companies and give them back to GPs, and train and fund 800
advisers to work in foodbanks. Labour proposes replacing the House
of Lords with an elected "Senate of the Nations and
Do you believe the promises contained in party manifestos?