Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Questions for New Labour about housing

I just received the following action alert from Defend Council Housing:

Tonight “The prime minister will use a Labour party broadcast to encourage members of the public to email or text their questions on the Queen's speech and other political issues.” (Guardian 15/11/06)

Defend Council Housing has ten questions council tenants, councillors and trade unionists might like to use as a basis for putting questions to Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly:

1. Government says it believes in ‘choice in public services’. Will Ministers now respect the decision of council tenants who have voted to keep the council as their landlord and for the local authority to carry out improvement to our homes and estates direct?

2. This government was elected in 2005 on a manifesto commitment "By 2010 we will ensure that all social tenants benefit from a decent, warm home with modern facilities." Will Ministers keep that commitment to council tenants?

3. Labour Party Conference backed the ‘fourth option’ for council housing for a third consecutive year. Are Ministers listening?

4. Year on year government is siphoning money out of tenants rents and profiting from ‘right to buy’ receipts. Will Ministers give a clear commitment to ring fence all the money that belongs to council housing so that democratically elected local authorities can use every penny to improve our homes and estates?

5. Since council housing is cheaper to build, manage and maintain than the alternatives and the private sector (including so called Registered Social Landlords) are failing to meet housing need will the government allow local authorities to improve existing and build new council homes?

6. Privatisation of council housing costing a fortune: millions spent on glossy PR campaigns, consultants and set up costs. Local authorities are now asking for nearly £1 billion of public money in ‘gap funding’ to subsidise stock transfer. Why can’t this money be spent allowing councils to improve homes which is what tenants want?

7.Isn’t it a public scandal that Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) receive billions of pounds in public subsidy yet are sitting on “reserves of £10.8 billion, of which £5.1 billion are revenue reserves, and a pre-tax surplus of £276 million.” (Inside Housing, 4 Feb 2006). Why can’t this money be taken back and given to democratically accountable local authorities to invest in housing improvements and new homes?

8. Tenants in 55 authorities with Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) were promised that the new arms length companies were not a vehicle to privatise their homes and that they would be able to revert back to direct council management once the Decent Homes standard has been met. Will Ministers keep that promise?

9. Council tenants have a unique ‘secure’ tenancy, lower rents and can elect their landlord. Will Ministers commit to defending ‘secure’ tenancies and oppose recent calls for our ‘life-long’ tenancy to be taken away forcing council tenants and others to buy or rent on the open market?

10. Why is government diverting public subsidies to encourage home ownership when 1.5 million households are on council housing waiting lists, many of the 3 million existing council tenants and their families chose to remain as council tenants and the DCLG Select Committee, Shelter and others have expressed serious concerns about this policy?

See latest DCH eight page newspaper, new pamphlet and campaign website for background information, facts and figures.

Sign the Open Letter to Tony Blair online. Get your MP to sign the new EDM (to be tabled this week).

Please Bcc DCH into any emails you send to Ministers – and send us their replies.

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