PRESSURE FROM tenants, trade unionists, councillors and MPs is rattling the government in the fight for the future of council housing. Deputy prime minister John Prescott has announced a review on 'the way forward for housing capital finance'. Campaign organisation Defend Council Housing says:
'This major development follows on from our success in getting a new 'right to borrow' for councils included in the local government bill and extra money for housing allocated in the comprehensive spending review.'
Prescott has been forced to at least raise the possibility of ending financial rules that prevent councils building, and properly repairing and refurbishing, council homes. This shift is testament to the dogged campaigning by tenants and others around the country.
The landmark victories such as the rejection by Birmingham tenants of the government-backed plan to privatise their homes have played a big part. But the government still remains committed to privatising council housing. As well as straightforward 'transfer' to a housing company, the government is also pushing Private Finance Initiative deals and what it calls Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs).
ALMOs are a halfway stage on the road to wholesale council house privatisation. The urgent need now is to up the pressure on the New Labour government. Already 82 MPs have signed up to a parliamentary 'early day motion' on the 'case for council housing'. Local organisations should lobby their MPs.
They should also make submissions putting the case for council housing in the official consultation on Prescott's review, which ends on 18 October.
For more details and advice on submissions write to Defend Council Housing, c/o PO Box 33519, London E8 4XW, phone 020 7987 9989, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk