Unite the Union

Unite the Union

September 27, 2007 07:57 ET

Press Statement from Defend Council Housing

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Sept. 27, 2007) -

The 'Fourth Option' of direct investment in council housing was a key debate at Labour Party conference putting government under pressure for the fourth consecutive year. 17 Constituency Labour Parties submitted motions supporting the 'Fourth Option' keeping the issue at the top of the political agenda.

Alan Walter, Defend Council Housing chair, said after the debate

"Four years running delegates at Labour Party conference have banged the table and demanded the 'Fourth Option' of direct investment in council housing."

"Some politicians and pundits prematurely predicted the end of council housing but not only are there still nearly 3 million council tenants defending our secure tenancies, lower rents and a landlord we can hold to account but we've got government promising to build a new generation of first class council homes."

"I welcome Yvette Cooper's commitment today that 'It is time for councils to be able to build new council housing again too.'"

"There were also more warm words about ensuring all councils are able to bring their existing council homes up to modern standards but we need to get around the table to agree concrete measures to achieve this. The Minister's remarks that 'We must be responsible and we must keep within our budgets' isn't necessarily a problem. Government is currently siphoning off GBP 1.5 billion a year from tenants rents and has some GBP 50 billion from council housing capital receipts. Ring-fencing this revenue and a small part of the profits they've made from 'right to buy' sales would enable government to meet the campaign's objectives."

"There's been plenty of 'warm words' at this conference and the Housing Green Paper offered solutions on building new council homes that could be translated into solutions to guarantee improvements for all 3 million existing council tenants."

"Everyone will now be looking to see whether government delivers concrete measures that satisfy the campaign's three demands."

Austin Mitchell MP said ahead of the debate (see attached statement):

"It is time that government stopped ignoring council tenants. It is time that Ministers got around the table to settle this dispute and find formulas to enable all local authorities to improve their homes and estates, start building a new generation of first class council housing and ensure that all council homes are maintained as first class housing in years to come."

"We haven't fought this long and come this far to be fobbed off now!"

In a discussion paper last July (2006) it looked like government wanted to try and walk away from meeting their manifesto commitment on 'Decent Homes'. Today Housing Minister Yvette Cooper in a Q&A Session before the housing debate said "we have made clear is that we have to get all areas to that decent homes standard".

Both Composite 6 and Composite 7 made clear commitments to defend 'secure' council tenancies against proposals to introduce means testing and time limits.

The immediate problem government faces is with the authorities where tenants have rejected the government's three privatisation options and the council needs additional resources to improve their homes and estates.
Without announcing any specific details Yvette Cooper told the conference that government was in discussions with one council (Camden) to find a solution and more generally that "we will work with other councils to use flexibilities within the green paper... working within proper budget limits".

With the TUC unanimously supporting the 'Fourth Option' at its conference two weeks ago the whole trade union movement has promised to ensure that ongoing discussions with government secure the campaign's demands.

Tenants, trade unions, councillors and MPs involved in Defend Council Housing will continue to oppose councils trying to privatise council homes or sell off council (public) land for private development. Our alliance will also press Ministers to ensure that councils are able to improve all their existing homes and estates; start a new council house building programme and change the housing finance regime so that councils can maintain all homes as first class housing in years to come.

Further information from Alan Walter 07737 488 632 www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk

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