The Mayor of Watford has hit back at claims the area is suffering a housing crisis after rival parties criticised the number of empty homes in the town.

Dorothy Thornhill, who has held the post since 2002, dismissed Jagtar Singh-Dhindsa’s suggestion that the failure to address this is a “missed opportunity”.

Mr Singh-Dhindsa, the Labour candidate for the upcoming Mayoral election, cited information from Watford Borough Council which showed there are more than 1000 unoccupied homes in the town.

He believes the increasing need for social and affordable housing continues to be left unaddressed, a situation he described as “scandalous”.

“There are literally hundreds and hundreds of properties sitting empty while we’re sending our own kids to go and live elsewhere because they can’t get a home in their own town,” he said.

“The Liberal Democrats have been running Watford for 16 years and yet they have utterly failed to solve the housing crisis.

“They have been weak and allowed our town to become a developers’ paradise, where social and affordable housing is dismissed from developments with the wave of a viability assessment.

“Profit for developers, not houses for our town’s residents has become their modus operandi ever since they passed the rules in 2012 as part of the Coalition Government. They’ve made the mess but we have to lie in it.”

Ms Thornhill accused Mr Singh-Dhindsa of going for an “easy hit” over an issue which is a “very challenging problem to solve”.

She also noted how he had misread the statistics, ignoring the fact that a number of homes will be vacant for less than six months while there are various circumstances that lead to extended periods of emptiness.

George Jabbour, the Conservative candidate for Mayor, said the council should have approached things differently when it comes to addressing housing in the town.

He said: “I am standing as a candidate for Mayor in this election to use my skills and expertise to serve the people of Watford and bring a new vision to deal with housing.  

“As Mayor, I will ensure that the housing that Watford needs is in the right place, styled in keeping with local character and affordable for your people, thus keeping Watford's families together.”