Socialist Worker

Tests to judge any new Labour housing plans

Issue No. 2055

Gordon Brown is coming under intense pressure to concede the “fourth option” for council housing – direct investment to fund improvements as an alternative to privatisation. This would challenge the other three options of stock transfer, arm’s length management (Almos) and the private finance initiative.

The Labour Party working group on housing was to meet on Thursday this week and to make recommendations to the party’s National Policy Forum in July. The broad based Defend Council Housing (DCH) campaign has laid out three tests to judge any new proposals.

They must:

  • Improve all existing council homes and estates
  • Start a new council house building programme
  • Ensure sufficient funds to maintain all council homes in future years

Speaking at the DCH fringe meeting at the GMB union conference, Nick Brown MP, a close ally of the next prime minister, told delegates, “Defend Council Housing has been one of the most persistent and courageous labour movement campaigns that are currently underway and I think their time has come.”

Around 200 authorities would directly benefit from “fourth option” changes to revenue and capital funding, including those retaining their homes, those with Almos and those where tenants have rejected privatisation or not yet voted.

And all authorities across Britain would gain from the opportunity to build new council housing.

A recent official report found that council houses are more environmentally friendly than privately owned homes. They are more likely to have proper insulation and are becoming energy efficient at twice the rate of other accommodation.

Council houses score on average 57 of a possible 100 points on an energy efficiency index based on space and water heating costs, while private homes score only 46.

But the English House Condition Survey also shows that, after a decade of New Labour, ministers are only half way to their pledge of making more than nine out of ten council and housing association homes decent by 2010.

The united campaign by tenants, trade unionists, councillors and MPs has pushed the demand for the “fourth option” to the top of the political agenda. DCH is calling for delegations from all areas to its conference on 12 July to discuss how to take the campaign forward.

For further information go to » www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk

DCH has posted an e-petition at » petitions.pm.gov.uk/fourth-option


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