OVER 100 council tenants took part in the Defend Council Housing national conference in Liverpool on Saturday of last week. They were joined by trade unionists, councillors and MPs to discuss how to step up pressure on the government to stop privatisation and invest in council housing - with no strings attached.
Councillor Ros Gladden, Labour housing spokesperson in Liverpool, opened the conference. Brian Iddon MP argued it was crazy that tenants in well performing housing departments like his own in Bolton were being blackmailed to accept ALMOs (Arms Length Management Organisations).
Delegates applauded Peter Corte-Massey from Stockport Tenants Federation, who explained how they'd defeated stock transfer in February. He told other tenants to expect their councils to play dirty: 'They spent a fortune on propaganda but whenever we oppose them they call us 'political'.'
Mick Graham, a GMB union national officer, assured tenants of continued trade union support. Delegates from areas starting campaigns against stock transfer and ALMOs learnt from the experiences of other campaigns in the workshops.
Labour MP Austin Mitchell argued that privatisation makes bad economic sense and is massively unpopular. Some 115 MPs have signed his motion in parliament, after lobbying from constituents, backing the campaign's demands.
Eighteen months ago Stephen Byers, then secretary of state, encouraged campaigners by agreeing to allow a new 'right to borrow' for local councils and promised tenants would get repairs and improvements even if they voted against privatisation.
The conference agreed to continue campaigning on estates wherever councils try and blackmail tenants to accept stock transfer, PFI or ALMOs while taking the fight to the government to demand direct investment. In many areas tenants and trade unionists are gearing up to fight a new round of stock transfers and ALMOs.
Delegates agreed to lobby their MPs to sign the motion in parliament and ask all local councillors to sign up to the six demands behind the campaign's recent 1,800-strong lobby of parliament.