The picture above circulated by Sandwell MBC propaganda department illustrates a problem in Sandwell.

Pictured with chain is the Sandwell mayor, Cllr Haq. The mayor should be non-political during his year of office. Something Haq clearly doesn’t understand given his ramblings at the last council meeting. With some nauseating toadyism he flattered the Eling administration’s rule in Sandwell. In so far as he was intelligible, he said his heart had swollen with pride when the Lord Mayor of Birmingham had praised Sandwell to him. Perhaps an objective appreciation, that it was the representative of another Labour basket case council delivering the accolade, might have preserved Haq’s cardiac health.

Alongside Haq, in the photo are Cllr Sayeda Khatun, deputy leader of Sandwell Council and Cllr Kerrie Carmichael, Sandwell’s cabinet member for Housing. What caused these luminaries to assemble?

It was in celebration of the building of council houses in Tipton.

Surely, a large development warranted this turnout.

In fact, it was 7 houses.

Sandwell council had done what it often does to keep up council house building figures and had piggy backed upon a commercial development. What happens is when a builder plans housing, the council grants planning permission, subject to a condition that so many units be council houses.

There is nothing wrong with this but with 6000+ on the council’s housing waiting list a more dynamic building programme is required.

A positive effect of the Conservative government’s reigning in council spending has been the disposal of land, sometimes held and left waste for decades by Sandwell council. Land held unnecessarily often has been an eyesore and nuisance to local communities. An example was the abandoned council owned car park in Great Bridge near Asda.

The local authority needs to constantly review its land holding portfolio and liquidate surplus land, if possible, for housing. Some sites will be unsuitable, many will be. Often years elapse between the council’s decision to dispose of land and its actual sale. Any delays need to be justified.

The council has compulsory purchase powers it ought to exercise to rid the borough of sites of dereliction in private hands and release that land, if possible, for housing. Not far from the houses, in Tibbington Terrace, featured in the press release, there is land on High Street, Princes End where the Lagoon pub once stood and which has been derelict for years.

The pub closed 10 years ago, was pulled down 8 years ago and the public left, for a decade, with an eyesore site. Now, there is a planning application to build 9 houses on the ground.

Government money is available. Government aid made possible the creation of 150 new homes on the former Little Burton estate where council houses had been demolished and the site left waste by Sandwell council for over 10 years.

The government’s declaration of a Sandwell Housing Zone will enable 900 new homes to be built on brownfield land in Friar Park, Wednesbury with 700 more to be built in Smethwick.

No one can say that the government is not pulling its weight to solve Sandwell’s housing crisis. The local authority must play its part.

A council with a phalanx of Conservative councillors would.