Local authorities have been urged to ensure social homes bought under the Right to Buy scheme are replaced quickly.

According to housing minister Brandon Lewis, the number of council house building starts now stands at a 23-year-high, the Independent reports.

However, he said there is currently a time lag between the sale of a property and the construction of its replacement.

Mr Lewis insisted there is a "very strong incentive" for councils to act more quickly, as the receipts of council house sales must be returned to central government if they are not spent within three years.

The minister was speaking after concerns about the Right to Buy scheme were raised by the Local Government Association (LGA).

A spokesman for the body said the current system represents "poor value for money for the public purse", with the size of the discounts not supporting councils to replace homes sold on a like-for-like basis.

The LGA is therefore calling for the government to offer councils flexibility to set the discount rate locally, as well as "receive the receipts from sales directly, rather than through a restrictive agreement which limits councils' ability to invest in replacement housing".

According to figures from the organisation, eight in ten local authorities feel the existing arrangements do not enable them to replace every home sold on a like-for-like basis.

Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrats, has also raised concerns with the current procedures, insisting that every single property that is sold off under the Right to Buy initiative needs to be replaced.

He said this is an economic and social priority, which means it must also be further up the agenda for politicians.