Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/246/24842
Hands Off Our Council Housing
BIRMINGHAM CITY council is balloting council tenants. They are threatening tenants that their homes will be sold off to unelected, unaccountable quangoes.
The council plans to sell off all 88,000 council homes to an umbrella group, Birmingham Housing Association. Socialist Party members report strong opposition to these plans from tenants they speak to on stalls and in door-to-door canvassing.
New Labour are telling local councils to sell off all their housing stock within a decade. This flies in the face of reality. The private market, rented or bought accommodation, can't meet the needs of most working-class people.
Since 1981 over two million council homes have been lost while only half a million housing association homes have replaced them. Lack of housing and sky-high housing costs are freezing out vital workers like nurses and teachers.
For existing tenants, being transferred to housing associations means loss of security, higher rents and fewer repairs.
Birmingham council seem desperate for a yes vote. UNISON, the council workers' union, have accused the council of falsifying the results of tenant consultation, which they are using as justification for the ballot.
Some accusations stem from 'whistleblowing' by staff involved in door-to-door canvassing on the council's behalf. Local managers are tempted with the offer of long-term jobs if they produce the 'right' results in the consultation.
The council claim strong support for privatisation among council tenants. But it is alleged that staff carrying out doorstep consultation are virtually instructed to secure 'yes' votes from tenants.
People expressing uncertainty or simply saying that they'd like improvements to their houses are allegedly marked down as favouring privatisation.
The Birmingham Evening Mail visited roads where the council say there's support for privatisation and found that they hadn't even been canvassed!
The campaign must ensure that all council tenants are given an alternative to the council's wrecking policies.
No to council housing sell-offs. Campaigns linking tenants and the trades unions can beat housing privatisation.
Bring the banks, finance and construction companies into public ownership. Then we can cancel interest payments from councils and write off their housing debts (some councils pay up to half their housing budgets in interest).
For a massive programme of publicly funded, good quality, affordable homes under the control of tenants, local communities, trade unions and the working class as a whole.
TENANTS IN Aylesbury estate in Southwark, south London, recently rejected privatisation and transfer proposals. Now Southwark tenants in Working Against Tenancy Transfers and privatisation (WATT) are holding a public meeting entitled Should WATT stand in the council elections? Saturday 23 March at the Amersham Centre, Thurlow Street, Walworth SE 17 at 2pm.
In The Socialist 22 March 2002: