Housing: No Easy Touch

Issue section: 
Issue: 
(262)

On 16 April Defend Council Housing (DCH) is organising a 'Case for Council Housing' briefing for MPs at parliament.

Tenants' federations, trade unions and local activists are organising delegations from each area, and contacting their MPs to persuade them to join them at the briefing. Contributors already include an impressive list of tenant reps, MPs, academics and trade unionists. Ucatt, Unison, and the GMB are all supporting the event.

The battle for the future of council housing is hotting up. The ballot results for the sell-off of council estates in Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool will be known early in April. Ministers, senior officers and councillors continue to be shocked that council tenants are not such an easy touch. There are angry campaigns uniting tenants, trade unionists and some councillors which have taken the argument against privatisation onto the estates.

The government is showing signs of wobbling. The commitment by Stephen Byers to allow councils a new 'right to borrow' is now included in the Local Government Finance White Paper. Byers made a further commitment to a select committee on 16 January that regardless of how tenants vote in ballots all council housing will be brought up to the government's new decency target by 2010.

These are important concessions. They show that Labour ministers are feeling the pressure from an increasingly effective campaign. In the run-up to the May local elections DCH is urging tenants and trade unionists to push the 'Manifesto for Council Housing', and asking all candidates to sign up to its demands. With unions like the RMT now affiliating to the national campaign, the issue of council housing is fast becoming a key test of New Labour's commitment to a comprehensive welfare state. Across Britain nearly four million council tenants and their families have a direct interest in making sure that we stop New Labour's addiction to privatisation.