THE BATTLE to defend council housing is gathering ground following a successful fringe meeting at the TUC conference last week.
Leaders of all the major unions spoke at the meeting organised by the Defend Council Housing (DCH) campaign and pledged to support the “minority motion” due to be debated at the Labour Party conference next week.
That calls for a “level playing field” for council housing as an alternative to privatisation.
The TUC fringe meeting heard from GMB union general secretary Kevin Curran, Jack Dromey (deputy general secretary TGWU), Heather Wakefield (head of Unison local government) and John Allott (Amicus national officer). Also speaking were Austin Mitchell MP, chair of the House of Commons council housing group, and Alan Walter from DCH.
TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady and CWU union general secretary Billy Hayes both sent their apologies.
The union leaders spoke up for their members working in local government, and for council tenants and those who need decent, affordable housing.
Kevin Curran asked, “What will the legacy of New Labour be? The next Labour government should be committed to ensuring the best possible housing this country can afford. The GMB will continue to support the campaign.”
Jack Dromey told delegates, “We’ve got to stand up for council tenants and say they deserve a better deal.
“In the build-up to Labour Party conference we need to build the coalition of trade unions, local government and constituency Labour parties.”
John Allott reported that the Amicus executive has agreed to affiliate nationally to DCH.
Austin Mitchell argued, “This government boasts of being non-ideological, non-dogmatic. But on this issue their position is pure dogma.
“Council housing is cheaper to build, manage and maintain. It can pay for itself if government stopped taking money out of the housing revenue accounts, and invested in council housing instead of consultants and privatisation.”
Alan Walter reported “We are making real progress, building broad support for the fourth option of maintaining council housing, which tenants want.
“The government is pushing local councils to spend millions promoting privatisation in one-sided glossy PR campaigns.
“It’s crucial that the trade unions help counter this propaganda by ensuring there are campaigns in every area where councils are blackmailing tenants. Otherwise we will end up losing council housing because tenants are told there is no alternative but to accept privatisation.”
The government is telling council tenants there are only three options for getting extra investment to repair and improve council homes—stock transfer, PFI and Arms Length Management Organisations.
Supporters of council housing are calling for the “fourth option”—direct investment in council housing.
DCH is holding a national conference on Friday 29 October in London. Councils are happy to send tenants to conferences promoting privatisation. DCH suggests asking your council to fund tenants to attend its conference so they can hear the arguments.