SHAPPS GRANT Grant Shapps MP is Shadow Housing Minister.

The Prime Minister, in his attempt to grab a quick headline,
should be ashamed of the way he has offered false hope to thousands who
face the heartbreak of repossession.

Anyone who has ever owned a
home will understand just how much the thought of being repossessed can
lead to fear, anxiety and sleepless nights.

Right now in Britain
there are tens of thousands of homeowners worried that they might not
be able to meet the mortgage repayments this month and facing up to the
grim possibility of having to tell their children that they are leaving
their homes.

It was for those families that the Government’s £285
million Mortgage Rescue Scheme offered so much hope when it was
announced last September.

The scheme, which formed the
centre-piece of Gordon Brown’s Autumn 2008 re-launch, helps Housing
Associations to purchase equity in the homes of vulnerable families at
risk of repossession.

We were told by Ministers that the
elderly, families with young children, the disabled and pregnant women
would be helped and that 6,000 homeowners would be able to stay in
their homes as a direct result of this policy.

With the number of
repossessions rising and predicted to rise even further to 75,000 in
2009, everyone agreed that action was required and the Mortgage Rescue
Scheme was widely welcomed.

It finally launched in January but
since then just six families have avoided repossession because of this
scheme. At this rate, less than 30 mortgages will be rescued during the
two year duration of the initiative. In short, the Mortgage Rescue
Scheme is failing.

Ten months on from the last re-launch and the Government has
obviously been working hard at coming up with a new slogan. Back then
Ministers were offering ‘real help now’, last week the Prime Minister
was supposedly ‘Building Britain’s Future’. But what hasn’t changed is
the emphasis on headlines over action.

This Government have
often been criticised in the past for attempting to grab a quick
headline by over-promising and under-delivering on policy, but this
latest failure to deliver is the cruelest of all.

That’s because,
as might be expected against the current economic landscape, the
scheme’s failure certainly cannot be attributed to a lack of demand.

January, 5,342 homeowners have contacted their local authority about
difficulties paying their mortgages including nearly 1,500 in the
priority categories the Mortgage Rescue Scheme was specifically
introduced to help.

The Prime Minister has yet again put his own
poll ratings above the needs of British families. His announcement last
September was timed with political point-scoring in mind and with
hard-pressed families struggling to pay each month’s mortgage bill, he
should have known better than to toy with the emotions of so many
vulnerable families.

Rather than attempting to grab short-term
headlines, one of the distinguishing hallmarks of a future Conservative
government will be an emphasis on delivering real long-term change.