Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Latest From Defend Council Housing

Here is the latest news from Defend Council Housing (DCH) regarding their new pamphlet and response to the Cave Review of Social Housing Regulation:

'Dear Gordon: Invest in decent, affordable, secure and accountable council housing’ is a new Defend Council Housing pamphlet to be launched at a meeting 6pm, Tuesday February 20, Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons.

Speakers will include: Austin Mitchell MP (chair. House of Commons Council Housing group), Jack Dromey (chair. Labour Party NPF housing working group and Deputy Gen Sec TGWU) and Alan Walter (chair. Defend Council Housing).

The pamphlet makes the financial and political case for the ‘Fourth Option’ to improve existing and build new council homes. It also takes on the recent neo liberal offensive that proposes to remove our life-long, secure tenancy; deregulate (including removing rent controls) and open council housing and housing associations up to market forces (see Cave Review below).

Privatisation of council housing is deeply unpopular. In 2006 tenants voted NO in more ballots than ever before. With mortgage repossessions up and private developers and RSL landlords failing to provide the homes people need the case for investing in improving existing and building new council housing is stronger than ever.

The Labour Party’s National Policy Forum housing working group is expected to report later this month (following the third consecutive Labour Party conference voting to call on “government to provide the ‘fourth option’ of direct investment to council housing as a matter of urgency”). We need to step up pressure on government:

1. Register (by email) to attend the House of Commons meeting on Feb 20
2. Forward on this email and distribute widely the meeting flyer and DCH February Briefing
3. Ask your MP to join 102 MPs who have already signed EDM 136 Funding Decent Council Housing
4. Put DCH’s ‘Ten Questions to Candidates’ to all politicians standing in forthcoming elections
5. Read the DCH submission to ‘The Cave Review of Social Housing Regulation’ and send in supporting arguments

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At 9:15 am, Blogger Bob Deed said...

How is transfer of housing to not-for-profit Housing Associations "privatisation"?

Even more bizarrely, how is the transfer of management (not ownership) to a council-owned ALMO "privatisation"? (If you want to keep state ownership of housing, surely an ALMO is the way to do it.)

At 8:09 pm, Blogger greenman said...

8 reasons to oppose ALMOS, courtesy of DCH:

# This government wants to privatise council housing - ALMOs are a key part of their strategy
# Elected councillors will no longer be accountable for what happens to our homes. It's a recipe for excuses
# A separate private company means less co-ordination between housing and other services - when we need more!
# Tenants on the board will not be allowed to represent our interests - their hands will be tied by company law
# Massive amounts will be spent on consultants, re-organisation and higher senior managers pay
# Housing workers will lose out by being TUPE transferred. Staff turnover and demoralisation will affect the service
# The council has asked for extra money for the ALMO but they don't know yet how much they will get!
# Winning direct investment without strings is worth fighting for.

Bob, as someone who describes himself in his blog description as both a 'consultant' and 'Board member' in this field, perhaps your feeling that opposing ALMOS is "bizarre" is not entirely unconnected to your self interest, no?

ALMOs = thin end of a large wedge, or first part of a two stage privatisation.

Personally I find it despicable how the transparently neo-liberal New Labour Party and its' government have co-opted mutualist, co-operativist and "libertarian socialist" rhetoric and is using the voluntary and not-for profit sector as "left cover" to pursue its' real agenda of corporate domination and Thatcherite free-market dogma.

The long term guarantees are just not there and the changes in housing, as in health and eduction, look at best like putting the sectors into a much more vulnerable position vis-a-vis corporate privateers, and at worst a blatant transmission belt to private ownership.

Fortunately more and more people, aided by campaigns like DCH and Keep Our NHS Public have rumbled this strategy and are organising to roll it back.

At 9:49 am, Blogger Bob Deed said...

How are ALMOs a key part of a strategy of privatisation? They are council-owned companies.

How does TUPE adversely affect workers terms and conditions? Its protects transferred workers terms, conditions and pension entitlements.

Your theory about my "self-interest" is a bit reductionist.

I don't have any self-interest in ALMOs as a "board member". I am a housing association board member. The HA is not connected to any ALMOs. I'd also mention that I don't get paid a penny for my time.

I did two pieces of work with ALMOs before I became a freelance "consultant". I've done noting nothing with ALMOs in the last year.

I suppose my interest and work in housing does lead me to consider many ALMOs to be organisations that have a real commitment to continuous improvement. (Perhaps a stronger commitment than some housing associations.)

Also seeing the reality of council housing in Birmingham certainly makes me keen to see change and improvement.

At 12:56 pm, Blogger greenman said...

How are ALMOs part of the privatisation strategy? I think the clue is in what you say - "they are council-owned companies" The key word there is 'companies'. It is about distancing the stock from the public sector and implementing private sector "disciplines".
On TUPE - I've been TUPE'd and it is not a pleasant experience - the fact that some of your terms and conditions are offered a limited form of protection does not alter the fact that others are not.
Does not the fact that ALMOS have more commitment to "continuous improvement" than HAs, as you say, indicate something about what happens the further you get from democratic and accountable public control of housing stock?
One of the main reasons Council Housing is poorer maintained or poorer quality than ALMO of HA housing in many areas is quite obvious - deliberate government policy - whereby the 'fourth option'is not available as attempting to maintain local democratic control of housing stock means large financial penalties.... On the other hand, do what the government wants and money is no object....In short, blackmail.


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