‘We Must Have Council Housing’


TENANTS who attended this week’s council housing inquiry at parliament say a programme of new council house building must begin immediately and projects to sell-off existing estates must be halted.

Tenants from Bournemouth, East Devon, Stroud, Crawley, Reading, Southampton, Birmingham, Bolsover, Wolverhampton, Leeds, Sheffield, Cambridge, Harlow and Norwich attended the inquiry on Wednesday.

The GMB, UCATT and Unite trade unions also gave verbal evidence.

A group of Labour MPs say they are in favour of preserving the existing 2.5 million council homes and enabling councils to build ‘a third generation of first class council housing, providing the “secure’’ tenancies, low rents and an accountable landlord that millions want and need.’

Members of the Southampton Tenants and Residents Federation spoke out about the situation on the south coast and about the effect that privatisation is having.

Speaking to News Line, Margaret Page and John Jarvis insisted: ‘No council house should be sold off, no council house.

‘There needs to be a halt to the sale of council homes and a halt to this culture of forcing people to become “homeowners’’. Did you know that we’re the only country that does that.’

Diana Higgins said: ‘My mother has been in council property since 1942. She’s 87. She’s never owed a penny.

‘We reckon it’s all wrong that they sell-off these council places.

‘If they continue this sell-off, there won’t be anything left!’

‘Look at what happened to those old people on the south coast,’ said John Jarvis.

‘They moved them from their council rest home in Brighton.

‘They sold the whole place off and within a few weeks half of them were dead! It’s the stress of moving.’

Margaret Page added that, ‘central government get 10 per cent of rents – we’re here to demand that they stop doing it!’

John said: ‘In Southampton, they’ve set Council Tax rates in line with inflation last September of four per cent – on orders from the government – plus 2.5 per cent on top of that.

‘So we’re now looking at a 6.5 per cent increase.

‘They just want to screw more money out of us while privatising our services.’

Terry Brackstone, also from the Southampton tenants federation, said: ‘I’m here because 10 per cent of our rent goes to the government.

‘Young people can’t afford to get on the housing ladder because you need so much just to get a a mortgage.

‘You can’t get a morgtgage for love nor money and they’ve stopped building council homes.

‘So if you’re a large family, you do get a council home but it might not be adequate – you might need four bedrooms but only get three.’

He insisted: ‘There should be a big spend on building new council homes now. It is no good in the future.

‘We want it now and they should immediately stop the sale of council estates and refurbish them instead, because it is big back-handers for the people who pull them down and rebuild.’

MP Austin Mitchell, chair of the House of Commons Council Housing Group, said: ‘Now is the time for government to invest in first class council housing.

‘Britain needs a big house building programme to meet housing need, safeguard jobs and give an urgent boost to the economy.

‘Enabling councils to modernise their existing homes and estates and start building a third generation of first class council homes makes political and economic sense.’

The MPs’ group said it intends to submit a report supporting the case ‘for government to stop the robbery from tenants’ rents and council housing receipts and announce a speedy conclusion of its Review of Council Housing Finance’.

The MPs’ group is demanding ‘a series of measures that will guarantee the long-term sustainability of a first class council housing sector.’

They say that building new council homes is ‘the quickest, cheapest and most effective way of addressing housing need.’