London

Thousands of London council homes left empty

More than 6,000 council homes have been left unoccupied in London, figures from the 33 local authorities have shown.

Nearly a third were empty because they needed repairs and more than 2,300 have been without tenants for over a year.

Last year, there were more than 360,000 households on council waiting lists for new homes, or 11% of all households in London, the research found.

The details were obtained by BBC One's The Politics Show London through Freedom of Information requests.

"If you're somebody on the housing waiting list and then you learn there are all these empty properties, it's devastating news," said government housing minister Grant Shapps.

"It's no use to anybody having these council houses lay empty.

"I think the councils need to make sure they're doing everything possible to bring them back into use, and really quickly too."

One council with 500 empty properties, Labour-run Camden in north London, admitted it had a "very pressing problem".

But Julian Fulbrook, a Labour councillor, said the authority was "determined to bring these homes back into use as quickly as possible".

The government has given the borough £55m to repair properties which have been damaged or require work.

"This is very good news for us - but of course the government are taking away £40m from us," Mr Fulbrook said, referring to the cuts the council is making to all of its services.

"It's a bit like a game of snakes and ladders - we go up, we go down."

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