Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/166/7867
Defend Council housing
IN THE first three years of being in government New Labour has privatised more council homes than the Tories managed in ten years.
Paul Wilcox, Carlisle Socialist Party
Now New Labour plans a big bang, the abolition of council housing. The recent government Green Paper says the government plans to sell off all Britain's remaining 3.2 million council homes at the rate of 200,000 a year, to housing associations and private housing companies.
Campaigns to defend council housing have mushroomed around the country and a national lobby of Parliament is taking place on 19 July in protest.
18 years of Tory rule saw war declared on local councils in the form of massive cuts in cash for council services like housing.
In 1979 Britain spent £18 billion on council housing, now it's down to £5 billion. Tory right to buy rules generated £33 billion, yet no council was allowed to spend any of this money to build new homes to replace those sold to tenants.
Now, the state of many council houses and flats is a source of anger amongst tenants. Council housing has fallen into intolerable disrepair. Yet privatisation of council housing is not the answer.
Privatisation means the transfer of control and running of that service from an accountable public sector to the private sector where unelected boardrooms of businesses and banks make decisions about our housing.
The only basis under which financial lenders will get involved with housing transfer is if they are freed from public accountability in order to maximise profit. The 'Council of Mortgage Lenders' say they would oppose any transfer options "if they are in reality controlled by local authorities" (Housing Today Magazine).
Despite its huge majority, New Labour won't challenge this "institutionalised robbery" by the finance companies. Neither the government nor any New Labour council were elected with a mandate to privatise council housing. But, with a general election next year the government are susceptible to increased pressure and a mass campaign could stop this housing sale of the century.
The money is there to provide high-quality, low-cost council housing. The national housing repairs bill is estimated at £19 billion.
The government is prepared to set aside £12 billion to write off council housing debts to facilitate transfer. So why can't the government hand over this money to council and tenant control?
Better still, why not nationalise the banks and finance companies under democratic workers' control and management and stop them draining councils of funds through interest payments. The banks' and finance companies' massive profits can then be used to fund an extensive programme of investment to provide decent, affordable public housing for all who need it.
In The Socialist 14 July 2000: