Kelly plans new attacks on council tenants

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RUTH Kelly, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has backed proposals to end the long-term secure tenancies of working-class families living in council housing for new tenants.

The minister, whose promotion within the Labour government has been due to her unfailing support for Prime Minister Tony Blair, said that a lifetime in social housing should no longer be an automatic option for people who need a home.

Kelly said: ‘We should consider whether the social sector should be seen more as a stepping stone at a time of change in their life’, rather than a lifetime arrangement. Some new tenancies could be temporary and short term.

She was responding to the report from London School of Economics Professor John Hills, the Director of the Centre for Social Exclusion, that was commissioned by her department. Ends and Means: The Future Roles of Social Housing in England was published on Tuesday.

Hills said that more than half of all those of working age in council housing, housing association and registered social landlords’ (RSLs) accommodation are not in paid work.

He added: ‘We tend to think of support with housing and support towards work in separate boxes, but often housing problems have their roots in people’s weak position in the labour market.

‘We need to do more to bring support for housing and work together . . . what initially appears as a housing problem may have its roots in problems in the labour market.’

One of Hills’ proposals is that tenants in the north of England and in other areas where rents are lower should have their housing benefits cut.

He wants to ‘help’ more tenants into buying homes. He proposes that councils and housing associations review tenants’ incomes to get them to buy a share in their housing.

He also wants housing associations and RSLs, often companies that have taken over council estates, to build housing for sale within these estates.

Kelly endorsed Hills’ proposals, declaring that ‘there’s far more unemployment inactivity among social housing tenants than others’. She said ‘social housing must work better as a platform for social and economic mobility’.

Kelly wants new tenants, looking for accommodation that they can afford, to be given only temporary tenancies. She said that housing for teenagers should be tied to welfare-to-work programmes, or rent deposit schemes to push those in paid work into private rented accommodation and shared ownership schemes.

This government is forging ahead with the privatisation of council housing by forcing local authorities into stock transfer deals with RSLs, or by setting up the two-stage privatisation process known as Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs).

The government is not about to do a U-turn and adopt the ‘Fourth Option’ – providing funds to local authorities to build council housing – as advocated by Labour ‘lefts’ and union leaders.

Kelly’s endorsement of Hills’ proposals shows that the government intends to extend its attacks on council housing through scrapping secure tenancies for new tenants.

It plans to use threats of benefit cuts to force tenants into low-paid work, linked to working-class families paying a large chunk of their income into home-ownership schemes, or handing it over to rapacious private landlords in rent.

Blair, Brown, Kelly and company are dismantling the welfare state and replacing it with the means-test state, hitting benefits, healthcare, education and housing.

The defence of council housing and the right of working people to have decent affordable homes, are revolutionary issues.

Tenants must unite with trade unionists, whose jobs are threatened by privatisation, in mobilising mass action, a general strike, to bring down the Blair government and replace it with a workers’ government.

Such a government must nationalise the banks and construction corporations to carry out a socialist programme of building new council housing, which is necessary to provide decent homes for everyone.

A new leadership must be forged in the tenants’ movement and the trade unions to carry forward this struggle. The Workers Revolutionary Party is building this new leadership, so join it today!