CAMPAIGNERS against council house privatisation were cheered to see New Labour forced into another U-turn last week. The government has pledged to get all council homes to a decent standard by 2010.
To ensure this, some bright spark in the government suggested they shouldn't count authorities where tenants voted against housing sell-offs. This massaging of the figures shocked even Labour MPs and the government was forced to retreat and include tenants who voted no in its figures.
Ministers have come under increasing pressure from tenants voting against their privatisation strategy and from the popular Defend Council Housing campaign. In response they've lashed out. Keith Hill, Blair's housing minister, even announced recently that he was "tearing up" his predecessor Stephen Byers' pledge over council housing repairs. Hill says that where tenants have voted to stay with the council the authorities will not get any extra money for repairs such as kitchens, bathrooms and windows.
But so far this blackmail has not succeeded in stopping the tide of anger against New Labour's council housing privatisation. Defend Council Housing has challenged the government's refusal to countenance direct investment in council housing.
Campaigners have established that the government takes £1.5 billion a year from the housing revenue accounts and makes £550 million profit in right to buy schemes. Ploughing that money back into people's homes is the real alternative to privatisation.