Labour May End Secure Tenancies – Attack On Council Housing Condemned By Ucatt And Shelter

The South-East London Council of Action marching to defend council tenants on the threatened Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle
The South-East London Council of Action marching to defend council tenants on the threatened Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle

CONSTRUCTION union UCATT has labelled proposals by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), to end secure tenancies and all other current council tenancies in favour of means tested, fixed term tenancies for all council tenants, as dangerous and ill thought out.

The government confirmed to News Line yesterday that housing minister Margaret Beckett is considering the CIH proposals.

UCATT warned these ‘are that council tenants should not only receive fixed term tenancies and be subjected to regular reviews’, but ‘if a tenant’s earnings increased, they would be “encouraged” to move to the private sector, purchase equity in their property or face higher rents.’

A UCATT spokesman told News Line: ‘This is our message to the government and everyone else. The government should not proceed with such plans.’

• See photo gallery for special feature ‘The ugly faces of occupation’ by Mats Svensson

• See photo gallery for special photo feature by Mats Svensson ‘The ugly faces of occupation’
Alan Ritchie, General Secretary of UCATT, said: ‘If enacted these plans would destroy the fundamental principles of council housing, that tenants are provided with secure affordable high quality homes.’

UCATT is campaigning for councils to be able to build new properties, a policy opposed by successive governments.

By building a large number of new properties councils will be able to tackle the problem of growing housing waiting lists.

Given the recent downturn in the economy there is a great deal of economic inactivity among construction workers experienced in building houses.

By investing in social housing the government will also help restore confidence to the construction sector.

Ritchie, added: ‘The only way to tackle the increasing demand for council housing is by building more properties.

‘Trying to change the tenancies of existing tenants is just going to cause distress and uncertainty and will do nothing to actually resolve the current lack of availability.’

Shelter chief executive Adam Sampson, said: ‘At a time when unemployment is rising sharply it would be perverse of government to mount an attack on social housing.

‘While better services and independent advice about their options could help improve some tenants’ circumstances, threatening rent increases will create more problems than it will solve.’

‘It’s another bashing for council housing, trying to get rid of it through the back door, with new restrictions on security of tenure,’ Vally Wilson, secretary of the South-East London Council of Action, told News Line.

He added: ‘We need to resist and campaign and stop the council homes being sold off and stop these new laws restricting the council house building programme and ending secure council house tenancies.

‘We should set up more Councils of Action to stop these unfair policies that take away working-class homes.’

A Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: ‘We recognise that housing professionals like the CIH have made a case for reform in the social housing sector.

‘As new Housing Minister, Margaret Beckett is currently considering all the evidence and arguments in favour of changes to the current system, however she has not taken any decisions on measures that may form part of a reform package.’

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) is a not-for-profit organisation whose main partner is for rent builders Lovells.

CIH Director of Policy and Practice, Richard Capie said last month: ‘Social housing should no longer be populated by a majority of people unable to progress in their housing and wider aspirations.

‘Instead it should be a unique opportunity – a two-way, flexible stepping stone that responds to changes in people’s lives and that is better linked to private, shared, low cost or full home ownership.’

In a report on Housing Reform, the CIH said earlier: ‘We propose moving towards a system of flexible tenure in which all new lets can be reviewed after set period of time.

‘This would represent a fundamental shift away from the majority of current lets that provide a largely static tenancy for life.

‘Reviews would not just be about the tenancy, but the services that are associated with it.’