Socialist Worker

Council homes in Wales in danger

by Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 2015

Ballots to decide the fate of council housing are set to take place in six local authorities across Wales in the coming months.

Other councils set to hold housing stock transfer ballots include Taunton in Somerset, Daventry in Northamptonshire, Crawley in Sussex and Stirling in Scotland.

In Swansea, one of the areas of South Wales affected, tenants are expecting ballot papers to arrive any day.

Alan Thomson is a Defend Council Housing (DCH) activist in the city. He told Socialist Worker, “We are getting a really good response from tenants and the campaign is picking up momentum all the time.

“On Saturday we took a cavalcade through Townhill, which is one of the areas being balloted. People were coming out of their houses to hear what we have to say.

“One of the most common complaints I’ve heard from people is that they are really angry about the lack of information, the lack of debate.

“The ‘information’ you get from the council is the roadshow that they are taking around the estates at the moment.

“People I’ve spoken to say that they have been told the choice is simple - transfer your homes and you’ll get a new bathroom and kitchen. Vote no, and you’ll get nothing. It’s a disgrace that they are trying to bribe people in this way.

“But we have a real chance to win this ballot. A lot of local groups and union branches are supporting the campaign, both financially and by getting out and giving tenants the facts.

“People don’t want to transfer their homes, they want decent, affordable and secure homes for generations to come.”

Wales is currently under pressure to push through the government’s housing policy.

Only one of the 22 local authorities, Bridgend, has transferred its homes. In Wrexham tenants voted no in a ballot on stock transfer.

The 21 Welsh authorities with council homes are required to submit a plan to the Welsh Assembly saying how they intend to achieve the Welsh housing quality standard by 2012 - similar to the Decent Homes Standard in England.

Many homes need new kitchens and bathrooms to reach the minimum standard.

Only six local authorities have chosen to pursue transfer so far, and they will be watching the Swansea ballot closely.

Paul Lynch, a Swansea council tenant, said, “Swansea has seen a massive increase in house prices over the past five years. The prospects of our children being able to get on the property ladder are looking minimal.

“It is extreme folly, when we are in a period of high house prices and a potential shortage of affordable housing, to rid ourselves of council houses.

“Once council houses go ­they will not return. Tenants in Swansea are campaigning for a no vote in the ballot. Everyone who believes in council housing should join the campaign.”

Nine Welsh local authorities have made a commitment to retain their housing stock - Anglesey, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Vale of Glamorgan.

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Article information

Sat 26 Aug 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2015
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