Ballots are now under way in Birmingham and Glasgow. Britain's two biggest council landlords are asking their tenants to say yes to transfer to housing associations.
Glasgow's result is expected on Friday 5 April, with Birmingham's the following week. In both cities vote no campaigners are fighting to stop what is in reality privatisation of council housing. New Labour sees council housing as a problem, not a public service. So the great plan is to palm it off to unelected quangos which will then 'lever in' private cash to do up the houses.
The bankers safeguard their investment by getting their hands on guaranteed assets at a knockdown price, and councils, government and quangos blackmail tenants into believing that there is no other option. In Glasgow, for example, we have seen New Labour politicians scuttling around distributing a promotional video which effectively tells their constituents that the Labour council has been so rubbish, any alternative has got to be better! The figures are astonishing. Glasgow's housing debt is over £900 million.
The Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) has promised £1.6 billion private investment over ten years, or £4 billion over 30 years, but only if the government writes off the council's existing debt.
The Scottish Executive has agreed but, unfortunately for the GHA, the bankers won't stump up the private investment. So the Scottish Executive has had to promise another £700 million.
This is on top of over £10 million 'campaign costs', an estimated £100 million 'transfer costs', and £200 million VAT to the Exchequer! Yet, at the end of the 11-year investment programme, the GHA has admitted that it will still owe £700 million.
And who pays that? Why, the new rents of the ex-tenants of Glasgow council! The GHA and the council have not had it all their own way. The Campaign for a No Vote, which unites tenants' groups, has leafleted every council house and mounted stunts, stalls and street campaigns to explain the alternative.
The alternative is simple: write off the debt, borrow to build, and use the tenants' rents to pay for improvements, all under democratic council control. The unions have paid for mailshots, billboards, an ad trailer, and thousands of leaflets and posters. Campaigners will be keeping up their battle as the ballot runs.
THE CAMPAIGN against council housing transfer in Birmingham is in full flow as the ballot of 88,000 council tenants gets under way. A campaign bus visited ten shopping areas on Saturday and got an enthusiastic reception.
The day finished with two slow drives down the main shopping parade when a blasting megaphone got campaigners' message to thousands of shoppers. Activists on the bus will tour all the major estates for the rest of the week. There is a national day of action this Saturday 23 March in the city.
The tenants' ballot closes on 8 April, and the result will be announced the following day.
LIBERAL-controlled Stockport council intends to ballot tenants in summer 2003 to transfer all of its council housing stock. Stockport Labour group organised a meeting to oppose the transfer last week. There were approximately 50 people attending the meeting, which was addressed by the local Labour MP Andrew Bennett.
CREWE AND Nantwich council is currently balloting tenants and leaseholders for transfer of over 6,000 homes. The postal ballot closes on 27 March. Despite having limited time and resources, anti sell-off campaigners have leafleted about 5,000 homes, petitioned in the town centre and done interviews on local radio.