Socialist Worker

Leaders face echo of anger

Labour’s national conference saw Blair defeated over council housing and rail renationalisation.

Issue No. 1921

THE Tenants’ fight to stop council housing privatisation was carried to the centre of the political agenda at Labour’s national conference.

The Defend Council Housing (DCH) campaign has had a huge impact, but it has been barely noticed by the national media.

A resolution demanding a “level playing field” for council housing was passed with an overwhelming majority.

It demanded that councils should be able to invest in council housing in the same way as other landlords, rather than the three existing options of transfer of housing to the private sector, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) or the creation of Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs).

In negotiations and from the conference platform, deputy prime minister John Prescott effectively conceded there will now have to be a “fourth option”—direct investment in council housing.

He admitted, “Public funding of housing doesn’t treat local authorities fairly.”

There will be zero tolerance among tenants and unions for any attempts to push transfer, PFI or ALMOs now.

The government needs to go back to the negotiating table and finalise the deal tenants want, so councils can invest in existing and new council housing with no strings attached.

The DCH conference on “Winning the fourth option” takes place on 29 October at Congress House in London.

It will give tenants the opportunity to hear the case explaining why the fourth option is viable.

Tenants

Councils should be challenged to pay for tenants to attend so they can hear both sides of this argument. In Southampton the council has agreed to pay for a delegation of tenants to attend.

A local Amicus union convenor asked the director of housing to pay for delegates following a discussion with DCH at Amicus’s national industrial council last week.

Councils will now be under pressure to freeze stock option appraisals and proposals to sell off housing.

Every area needs to pull together a broad-based campaign in the next few weeks to unite tenants, unions and, where possible, councillors and MPs to stop any privatisation proposals and demand direct investment.


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