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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 November 2007

Tales from the council chamber

COVENTRY'S SOCIALIST councillors nearly got a motion passed through Coventry's Tory majority council. It called for more affordable rented homes in new developments and for greater powers to take over badly managed and empty terraces and re-let them to families to rebuild communities.

Rob Windsor, Coventry Socialist Party councillor

Coventry has sold off all its council homes, despite our opposition and only a narrow approval for a housing sell-off from tenants after they were starved of repairs. A huge demolition programme has increased housing need in the city.

The motion said that the 25% 'affordable housing threshold' developers must meet to obtain planning permission is set too low. 12,000 families are currently registered with the council's lettings scheme. On top of that, higher interest rates and other factors in the housing market are closing off the possibility of home ownership to wider layers of society.

Our modest proposal was that 40% of all new developments should comprise affordable social housing. We also called for the city council to "recycle" vacant local housing, in order to avoid unnecessary building on Coventry's green belt or the swallowing up of green and park land in city centres.

Our motion called for extra central government housing finance to be allocated to the city and for discussions with government to introduce council powers to take over and re-let badly managed privately rented housing or empty properties.

Surprisingly, New Labour supported us but the Liberal councillor voted with the Tories. The New Labour lord mayor has to use his casting vote to support the largest party. New Labour brought in this clause to the council's constitution but under Tory control, it has now been used against them. The vote was tied 22-22 but with the mayor backing the Tories, our motion fell.

The Tory deputy leader pleaded with New Labour not to return to the "old days" and to think how developers coming into the city would react to having to increase the amount of rented homes in their developments. Obviously, they don't care about the city's working class and young people who haven't a hope in hell of getting a toe on the "property ladder."

The major parties' abandonment of council housing has had catastrophic results. But our very modest motion shows that one major party, who believed the false mantra of "we need more executive housing," now finds that more decent rented homes are needed.

Their response however, is ideologically limited by relying on private developers who hold the purse strings and ultimately call the shots.

The need for a new workers' party with a bold call for building and recycling really affordable rented homes grows bigger each day.

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