Around 1,300 delegates from all corners of Britain came to London on Wednesday of this week for Defend Council Housing’s lobby of parliament. The lobby called for an end to the selling off of council housing, and for direct investment.
Labour MP Austin Mitchell chaired the three-hour main meeting which heard from MP’s, trade unionists, councillors and tenants involved in the campaign. He opened the meeting saying, “This is crunch time for the government.
“We have a real crisis point over housing. Council house waiting lists are up. Homelessness is on the rise. More and more councils are choosing to retain their housing stock and tenants are voting to keep the council as their landlord.
“We are here to tell the government that this crisis is not what we want. Stop it.”
Respect MP George Galloway said, “I am a product of the transforming effect of council housing. This year sees the centenary of the formation of the Labour party – who would have thought back then that a Labour government would oversee the selling off of council homes.
“In Tower Hamlets, in east London, we have an example of how tenants can reject these plans – and in May we will elect a council that will stop the transfer of council homes.”
Labour councillor Michael Tansey from Sunderland spoke about how he has been treated by the Labour party for his opposition to the sell off of council housing. He said, “Sunderland council sold off its 36,000 homes in 2002.
“I have been disciplined by the Labour Party four times for my involvement in the campaign, and informed that I will not be re-selected for the next council elections.
“I am being driven out of the Labour Party by this disgusting policy. Since the homes were handed over there are no waiting lists in Sunderland. But there are 19,000 people looking for a home – Sunderland Housing Group say ‘there are 19,000 people expressing an interest in our homes’.”
Leslie Christie from Gravesham, Kent, spoke about their campaign. He said, “We are due to have our housing ballot in June. We’ve got 20 delegates at the lobby, paid for by local Amicus and Unison union branches.
“The council have already spent thousands of pounds consulting tenants – and the majority, around 60 percent, are against transfer. Its ridiculous that the council can find money for this ballot but not to repair our homes.”
The two themes that ran through the day were the anger at the government’s policy and the belief that we need a real strategy for council house building.