Socialist Worker

Blow for Blair in his own backyard

Issue No. 1961

The fight against the privatisation of council homes gained a significant victory in Tony Blair’s own constituency last week.

Some 60 percent of tenants in Sedgefield, north east England, voted against the council’s plans to sell off their homes. Turnout was 73 percent.

The council proposed selling its 9,000 homes to Sunderland Housing Group (SHG). SHG spent a small fortune, reportedly £720,000, trying to get its hands on Sedgefield’s homes, with a sustained campaign of glossy material, DVDs and door to door canvassing.

None of the usual excuses for selling off housing stock existed in Sedgefield’s case. The council is set to meet the government’s decent homes standard on all its properties by 2010.

It has little debt and a survey a couple of years ago found 97 percent of tenants were satisfied with the council as their landlord.

The result adds to the pressure on government ministers following the House of Commons council housing group’s report, an adjournment debate in parliament and the Audit Commission calling for a review of housing finance.

It is time to step up the pressure from tenants, trade unions, councillors and MPs to force the government to change its policy.

COUNCIL TENANTS in mid-Devon are starting a campaign to oppose the sell-off of their homes, writes Patricia Rowe.

Over 20 tenants and councillors met two weeks ago in Tiverton to discuss how to challenge the council’s proposals.

As many tenants elsewhere have discovered, the council is sending out misleading information aimed at securing a vote in favour of transfer.

One councillor on the council’s stock transfer steering group told the meeting, “It is clear that they don’t want to give unbiased information—it is pure propaganda.” All 3,200 tenants are due to be balloted in October.

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Sat 30 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1961
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