Socialist Worker

Keep pushing Gordon Brown over council houses

by Alan Walter, chair Defend Council Housing
Issue No. 2137

Gordon Brown announced last week that is he is backing down over rules that have stopped councils from building council housing.

The government is being squeezed hard between an organised campaign for investment in first class council housing on the one side and the total failure of the private housing market on the other.

The 2.5 million current council tenants and 1.77 million households on council housing waiting lists have a common interest in winning this campaign for council housing.

Now is the time to step up the pressure.

Investment to improve existing council houses and build new ones will also secure thousands of jobs and apprenticeships for our kids.

It would be a blow to the wider neoliberal agenda and encourage others campaigning for first class public services.

The House of Commons Council Housing Group is holding an inquiry on 25 February.

It is calling for evidence to support key arguments – that the government should stop robbing money from tenants’ rents and right to buy receipts, that it should fully fund allowances for the improvement of existing council homes and start a new council house building programme.

Tenants, trade unionists, councillors and others are invited to come to parliament to submit evidence and support the inquiry.


The campaign waged by Defend Council Housing (DCH) involving tenants organisations, trade unions, councillors and MPs has kept the government under pressure since 1998.

DCH has united forces to organise and support resistance to privatisation on estates, win votes at most trade union and three consecutive Labour Party conferences as well as organising lobbies and other activity at parliament. As a result this form of privatisation has stuck in the government’s throat more than any other.

There is a direct link between the failure of the neoliberal housing agenda and the world recession.

If first class public housing was widely available, so many people wouldn’t have been forced to borrow beyond their means in the subprime lending market.

Brown promised “to put aside any of the barriers that stand in the way” of councils building homes.

But there is a real danger that talk of councils building will be a cover to justify pouring public money into the public private partnerships that the government is encouraging councils to set up.

These local housing companies will please private builders and registered social landlords who are facing bankruptcy, but won’t provide a single council “secure” tenancy.

Most of the homes created this way will be for sale or “assured” tenancies with higher rents.

Council housing is the cheapest and quickest way to provide secure housing with low rents and a landlord that can be held to account.

DCH has nothing against people choosing to be home-owners, but there’s a clear argument that public money and public land should be used to provide public housing with the asset remaining firmly in public control.

The government could make support for council housing programmes a condition for any help given to banks and builders.

And if registered social landlords such as housing associations and housing companies get into trouble the government should support local councils taking them over rather than pouring money into the private sector.

DCH has always made clear that we are not just protesting – this campaign is determined to win. To do this, we need your help.

Tenants face soaring rents

Tenants in council housing and housing associations in England are organising to fight huge rent rises.

Most councils are expected to raise rents by around 5 or 6 percent in April, but some councils are going even further.

Tenants in Lambeth, south London, are likely to be hardest hit with rents set to rise by up to 16 percent.

That would work out at an increase of almost £50 a month for many tenants – most of who are already struggling to make ends meet.

For more information about the lobby of parliament or to get involved in DCH go to »

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Article information

Tue 3 Feb 2009, 18:26 GMT
Issue No. 2137
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