COUNCIL TENANTS in Wrexham have delivered another hammer blow to the government's drive to privatise council homes. Over 13,000 tenants of the North Wales council have decisively rejected privatisation in a ballot.
With 68 percent of tenants casting their votes the result, announced last week, was 5,701 against handing the homes to a private company and 3,991 in favour. The New Labour council had campaigned hard for the privatisation, but tenants and trade unionists campaigned against and carried the day.
The Wrexham vote is the latest in a series of ballots which have rejected privatisation. Such votes are adding to the pressure on the government to shift its stance and allow what has been dubbed a 'fourth option' of direct investment in council housing.
Until now the government has insisted that there are only three options to fund urgently needed repairs and refurbishment of council homes, and all involve privatisation. The government is prepared to pump public money in to help these privatisations. Campaigners are now demanding the government respects tenants' democratic votes and give the same money direct to councils to invest in housing.
This 'fourth option' campaign was taken to Labour's spring conference in Manchester last weekend. The Defend Council Housing organisation organised two fringe meetings at Labour's spring conference in Manchester to gather evidence and support for the 'fourth option'.
The campaign is backed by the parliamentary Council Housing Group of MPs, whose chair, Austin Mitchell, has written to every council asking for evidence of support for the 'fourth option'. Alan Walter from Defend Council Housing says, 'The financial case for council housing is clear. If all the money available to subsidise privatisation of council homes was invested directly then council housing can pay for itself. We received clear support from delegates at the Labour Party conference. The government is feeling the pressure.
'Get your tenants or trade union organisation to submit evidence to the Council Housing MPs group and urge individual councillors and your council as a whole to formally write in too.'
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis says, 'There should be a fourth option. If tenants have voted against transfer then money should be made available to invest in repairs and improvements.'
For more information go to www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk