Privatisation hits the buffers

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					                                    DEFEND COUNCIL HOUSING
                                   February/March 2005                                                                                                                                     20p

                                  hits the buffers                                                                                           More councils are refusing to privatise
                                                                                                                                                                                               Tony Newman, Local
                                                                                                                                                                                               Government Association lead
                                                                                                                                                                                               member for housing and chair
                                                                                                                                                                                               of housing for the Association
                                                                                                                                           and 125 in England are sitting it out, not yet      of London Government,
                                                                                                                                           announcing their 'stock option' intentions.         publicly calls on Deputy Prime
                                                                                                                                           Birmingham has been allowed to miss the             Minister John Prescott to free
                                                                                                                                           July 2005 deadline. Others are expected             councils from option
                                                                                                                                                                                               appraisals and provide
                                                                                                                                           to miss it too.                                     targeted extra investment for
                                                                                                                                             Privatisation is deeply unpopular. The 8:1        council housing, ‘with clear
                                                                                                                                           vote for a 'level laying field' for council hous-   incentives and support…for
                                                                                                                                           ing at last September's Labour                      others to increase
                                                                                                                                           conference reflects the anger around the            performance.’
                                                                                                                                           country. John Prescott promised to review           Roof magazine, Jan/Feb 2005
                                                                                                                                           council housing finance to address
                                                                                                                                                                                               “An 8-1 vote at the
                                                                                                                                           unfair funding. But in October Prescott with-       Labour party confer-
Picture: Tower Hamlets Recorder

                                                                                                                                           drew this commitment hoping to get a few            ence to give people
                                                                                                                                           more         sell-offs        and       ALMOs       what’s called the
                                                                                                                                                                                               Fourth Option, to let
                                                                                                                                           through.                                            council tenants
                                                                                                                                             Outraged tenants, councillors, trade              remain council ten-
                                                                                                                                           unions and MPs are signing the open letter          ants if that’s what
                                                                                                                                                                                               they want – that’s
                                                                                                                                           'A Promise is a promise' (see back page) -          what we should stick to.
                                                                                                                                           when the Deputy Prime Minister makes a                If you’ve got a ballot coming up, fight like
                                                                                                                                           promise people expect him to keep it!               hell to persuade people to vote no – the
                                                                                                                                                                                               more people who reject it the better chance
                                                                                                                                             The government's dogmatic push for pri-           we have of turning over this stupid policy’
                                     Council tenants around the country are             next round of transfer, PFI and ALMO - and         vatisation of council housing at all costs is       Frank Dobson MP
                                  saying NO to privatisation. We refuse to be           many of these will face fierce resistance          now more unpopular, isolated and unten-
                                                                                                                                                                                               “If too many tenants, seeing council housing
                                  blackmailed into giving up our rights - and           from tenants.                                      able than ever.                                     not being for them because of the current
                                  we have growing support from councillors,                Chartered Institute of Housing policy ad-         Each area that rejects transfer, PFI or           regime on borrowing, opt for an ALMO as
                                  MPs and the major trade unions.                       viser John Perry says 'I would expect the          ALMO adds to the pressure on Ministers to           second best – then at some stage we’re
                                                                                                                                                                                               going to find out that those tenants really
                                     The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister            ODPM to be concerned that this level of            ring fence the money that belongs to                haven’t got the right to have an Almo either,
                                  (ODPM) is desperate to get through more               applications may not be high enough to de-         council housing - the 'fourth option' - to fund     because there isn’t sufficient resources under
                                  transfers and ALMOs, before Ministers bow             liver the target unless it really does reflect a   the improvements we need. The continu-              the government borrowing rules, and they’re
                                                                                                                                                                                               all going to be forced into a stock transfer
                                  to the inevitable and agree to direct invest-         lot of authorities expecting to do so by retain-   ing refusal to allow this is putting the govern-    whether they like it or not…The Fourth
                                  ment - the 'fourth option' tenants want.              ing their stock and using normal invest-           ment's own 'Decent Homes' manifesto                 Option must be put back on the table – we’ve
                                     But only 38 councils have applied for the          ment.' Inside Housing 11 Feb 2005                  commitment in jeopardy.                             got to get the government to accept it.’
                                                                                                                                                                                               Clive Betts MP vice-chair ODPM
                                                                                                                                             Council housing has served generations
                                  GIVE EVIDENCE FOR THE
                                                                                                                                                                                               select committee
                                                                                                                                           of working people and with a growing hous-

                                  ‘FOURTH OPTION’
                                                                                                                                           ing crisis affecting millions we need to            ‘Give the people the choice they want.
                                                                                                                                                                                               That choice has to
                                                                                                                                           defend council housing for ourselves and            allow them to stay, if
                                                                                                                                           the next generation too.                            they want to stay,
                                  Organise a delegation of tenants, councillors and trade unionists from your area                                                                             with the council.
                                  to give evidence to the MP’s inquiry – or come to show your support.
                                                                                                                                             Together - tenants, trade unionists, coun-
                                                                                                                                                                                               That’s what we’re
                                                                                                                                           cillors and MPs - we can win the fourth             asking, just a simple
                                    8 March, 12–4pm, House of Commons                                                                      option and give all councils tenants a real
                                                                                                                                                                                               matter of a govern-
                                                                                                                                                                                               ment which be-
                                  Further information from House of Commons Council Housing Group c/o Austin Mitchell MP,                                                                      lieves in choice
                                                                                                                                             Say NO to privatisation and help us win           giving people a real choice.’
                                  House of Commons, London SW1 phone 020 7219 4559 email                       this campaign.                                      Austin Mitchell MP

                                  MORE COUNCILS REJECT PRIVATISATION                                                                       MPs back direct investment
                                                                                                                                             More than 250 MPs have signed one or              ALSO INSIDE
                                  Leicester, Greenwich, Wandsworth, New                 management organisations (ALMOs). They             more motions in Parliament supporting direct
                                  Forest, Bolsover, Cambridge, Barking & Da-            deny this is a two-stage strategy to privatise     investment for council housing.                     The case for council
                                  genham, Ceredigion County , Bridgnorth, Dar-          council housing – but why else is the govern-        Now, with an election looming, we need to         housing – page 2
                                  lington, South Derbyshire, Broxtowe and               ment so keen to get private companies set up       systematically contact each MP and ask
                                  Harlow have all recently joined the list of coun-     to manage our homes?                               them to take a stand and defend real choice         Tenants’ questions – page
                                  cils rejecting stock transfer, PFI or ALMO be-          Make sure that there is a proper debate in       for council tenants by backing the latest           4&5
                                  cause that’s what their tenants want.                 your area, that the council’s arguments are put    motion from Austin Mitchell MP: EDM 193
                                    It shows - despite the picture that some            under the microscope and all tenants get to        ‘Future for Council Housing’.                       Case against transfer, PFI
                                  councillors and senior officers like to hide - that   hear both sides of thedebate and have a ballot.      Write to your MP personally and ask tenants       and ALMO –
                                  there is massive opposition to privatisation.           Contact DCH for help with producing local        associations and unions to lobby their MPs
                                    Many councils are now pushing arms length           leaflets and speakers for meetings on estates.     too. See
                                                                                                                                                                                               pages 6&7
                                                                                                                                                                                               ‘A Promise is a Promise’ –

                                  STOP PRIVATISATION – INVEST IN COUNCIL HOUSING                                                                                                               sign the open letter –
                                                                                                                                                                                               page 8

We want direct investment                                                                                                                                           “Under the pre-

‘Fourth Option’ Affordable
                                                                                                                                                                    text of Decent
                                                                                                                                                                    Homes, tenants
                                                                                                                                                                    are in reality
                                                                                                                                                                    being black-
                                                                                                                                                                    mailed       into
                                                                                                                                                                    stock transfers,
                                                                                                                                                                    or        Almos,
                                                                                                                                                                    through the cur-
                                                                                                                                                                    rent funding arrangements.
The figures speak for them-                  fund the ‘fourth option’.                                                                                                  "The government must put its
                                                                                                                                                                    money where its mouth is and leave
selves and clearly demon-                       In 2003/4 tenants on aver-                                                                                          it up to tenants to decide who should
strate the ‘fourth option’ is                age paid £2650 in rent but                                                                                             own and manage their homes.”
financially viable (see table).              only received £1773 in serv-                                                                                           Andrew Bennett MP
   In 2002 the Blue Skies                    ices (England and Wales                                                                                                                    “Greetings from
review of housing finance,                   2003/4 averages: rent £2650,                                                                                                               the whole TUC
                                                                                                                                                                                        in support of
produced by the Office of the                M&M £1190, average MRA                                                                                                                     your campaign.
Deputy Prime Minister                        £583 source ODPM statis-                                                                                                                   Mine was one of
(ODPM), floated the idea of                  tics).                                                                                                                                     the families that
                                                                                                                                                                                        benefited for the
an ‘investment allowance’ to                    That leaves £877 per                                                                                                                    first time in
provide a funding stream to                  tenant (£2.2 billion per year                                                                                                              many genera-
enable councils to carry out                 for England and Wales,                                                                                                 tions from the opportunity of decent
                                                                                                                                                                    housing and it’s a cause well worth
the improvements them-                       2003/4) that could be used to                                                                                          fighting for.”
selves.                                      fund a massive investment                                                                                              Frances O’Grady
   This revenue stream exists                programme.                                                                                                             deputy general secretary, TUC
for PFI schemes and for                         There is also the profit gov-                                                                                       “Councillors,
councils who set up arms                     ernment takes from ‘right to              MPs report on “The case for the Fourth Option For Council Housing”           constituency
length management organi-                    buy’ (see table). Stock trans-                                                                                         UNISON and
sations (ALMOs). It could                    fer leads to higher rents and             Why not spend it on improv-               transfers run into tens of mil-    the other trade
equally be made available to                 so a higher Housing Benefit               ing our homes and avoid the               lions of pounds.                   unions gave a
all councils.                                bill for the Treasury.                    unnecessary higher rents                     This could be better spent      thumbs down to
   There is plenty of money                     UNISON estimates this                  charged by RSLs. And each                 on direct investment too.          the idea of stock
that rightly belongs to council              costs £249 million per annum              year the consultants and                                                     transfer and ALMOs at Labour Party
                                                                                                                                                                    conference. We want the ability for
housing that could be used to                based on 1 million transfers.             other setup costs for stock

Their arguments Desperate need for
                                                                                                                                                                    councils to borrow to invest in improv-
                                                                                                                                                                    ing council housing and REAL tenant
                                                                                                                                                                    choice over their housing options for
                                                                                                                                                                    the future.

do not hold up Council Housing
                                                                                                                                                                       UNISON has shown that it can be
                                                                                                                                                                    done within the prudential borrowing
                                                                                                                                                                    framework. The only obstacle now is
                                                                                                                                                                    Government policy. I am looking for-
                                                                                                                                                                    ward to an early start to the suggested
1. Money’s there                             usually-unelected tenants on housing      Deputy prime minister John Prescott has bowed to demand,                     review. In the meantime UNISON will
Ministers claim that privatisation           association and ALMO boards are in-       allowing councils to bid for money to build new council homes.               continue its campaign”.
means more improvements for less             creasingly marginalised, out-voted,                                                                                    Dave Prentis,
money. The opposite is true. Stock           unaccountable, and bound by busi-
                                                                                       ‘I want to give the best authorities the chance to bid for new               UNISON General Secretary
transfer wastes £billions (see p7). If       ness rules. If they rock the boat, they   funds for new homes,’ he said (Inside Housing, 1 October                     "The fourth option is the least expen-
all the money belonging to council           are thrown off the board (see pages       2004).                                                                       sive, most cost effective and the most
housing, and the subsidies to privati-       6 and 7).                                                                                                              democratic way forward for Maccles-
sation (see above) were used for             4. “Blackmail” not choice                     The number of people homeless and in temporary accom-                    field tenants."
direct investment in council housing,        A leading academic has backed ten-        modation has doubled in seven years. Where supposedly-‘low                   Cllr Steve Carter,
there would be enough to improve all         ants in calling stock transfer ‘black-                                                                                 Leader Labour Group
existing homes and build more. This          mail’. Hal Pawson, a senior               demand’ council housing has been demolished, homelessness                    Macclesfield Borough Council
decision is political, not economic.         researcher whose work includes offi-      has doubled rapidly according to housing charity Shelter.The
2. Separating strategy and                   cial studies for the Office of the                                                                                     “Tenants are not making knee-jerk
management is a failed dogma                 Deputy Prime Minister, says it is         cost of buying and private renting has soared, pricing out even              choices, they are voting to stay with
There is no evidence to support the          “hard to contest” claims that tenants     those on average wages.                                                      councils as their landlords because
government’s dogmatic insistence             were being blackmailed into voting                                                                                     they trust them and value the relation-
that separating strategy from man-           for new landlords, and ministers
                                                                                           Yet housing associations are using public resources to build             ship. If this is a democracy, the gov-
agement improves housing.                    should not claim this promotes real       small flats for private sale, ‘affordable’ shared ownership for              ernment needs to listen.”
   Heriott-Watt University found ex-         ‘choice’.                                 £200,000-plus and ‘market rents’ along with luxury private                   Alison Hustwitt, Stroud tenant
actly the opposite in a report com-             “Ultimately, the ‘choice’ offered to
missioned by the Housing Quality             the vast majority of tenants consists     gyms on former council estates. Poplar HARCA in east London                  “The immediate reaction of our stock
                                                                                                                                                                    options appraisal from the majority of
Network. The ODPM Select Commit-             of no more that an opportunity to en-     is threatening to issue assured shorthold tenancies to new ten-              the tenants is they wish to stay as they
tee also found no evidence to sup-           dorse or reject a single option, with
port this ‘dogma’. A separate                rejection potentially incurring a heavy   ants.                                                                        are. They can give ALMOs so much,
                                                                                                                                                                    they can give PFIs hundreds of thou-
company makes co-operation across            penalty in the form of debarred               Building new council homes is the obvious and immediate                  sands, but they can’t give people who
council departments more difficult.          access to capital investment. This is,
Services to the homeless are among           arguably, hardly a choice at all. It is   answer. Councils can build new housing more cheaply and                      are satisfied with what they’ve got
those that suffer, according to Shel-        hard to present transfer as genuinely     quickly, where it’s needed. Tenants get security of tenure, lower            more money – and we’re not happy
ter.                                         part of the ‘customer choice’ agenda.                                                                                  about.
3. Tenants lose power                        Proposals are hardly ever bottom-up
                                                                                       rents and a means of making their landlord accountable.                      Cynthia Johnson, Sefton tenant
Council tenants have unique demo-
cratic rights over our landlord. Privati-
                                             in the sense of being motivated by
                                             tenant preferences,“ he writes in this    Continuous Improvement Task Force
sation removes this. The handful of          year’s UK Housing Review.                                                                                             ODPM Select
                                                                                       In private talks before the               Deputy PM spending millions       Committee backs
                                                                                       Labour Party conference John              on its Community Housing

 Stop Disinvesting
                                                                                                                                                                   'investment allowance'
                                                                                       Prescott accepted that ‘good’             Task Force to promote privati-
                                                                                       performing councils should be             sation, government should         In May the influential ODPM
                                                                                       able to access the extra                  set up a ‘Continual Improve-      Select Committee of backbench
 Ministers claim that they put back the money they get                                                                                                             MPs came out clearly in favour
 from ‘right to buy’ sales but this isn’t true!                                        money available for ALMOs –               ment Task Force’ to bring to-
                                                                                       without setting up a private              gether the best expertise on      of the fourth option—direct in-
    The ‘reserved’ receipts (the 75% that the government                                                                                                           vestment in council housing—
 takes) far exceeds Government funding for investment in                               company.                                  issues like housing repairs,      via an ‘investment allowance’.
 council housing.                                                                         That leaves the question of            services for the homeless,          Their report concludes that
                                                                                       what happens to tenants in                tackling empty flats, etc. It     the government’s ‘dogmatic pur-
                                 2000/1 £m    2001/2 £m   2002/3 £m    Av’ge £m        councils that haven’t been                could use best practice to        suit’ of privatising council hous-
                                                                                       awarded ‘two stars’. It’s not             help councils improve their       ing isn’t justified and denies
 Reserved RTB                      1,047        950         1,317       1,105          fair that these tenants should            local services – instead of pe-   tenants real choice.
 receipts                                                                              be penalised – they need in-              nalising them. That way             They recommend Local Au-
                                                                                       vestment in improvements as               everyone wins.                    thorities be granted wider rights
                                                                                                                                                                   to borrow prudentially against
 Investment in                   300 (est)      673          792         588           much as everyone else. We                    Prescott meets the Trea-       rental income streams for the
 mainstream                                                                            think government should be                sury targets, councils improve
 council housing                                                                                                                                                   purpose of improvements to the
                                                                                       giving more help to councils              their services – and tenants      stock and to help create sustain-
                                                                                       to improve services.                      get the improvements we           able communities (see full sum-
 Net disinvestment                  747         277          525         516              Instead of the Office of the           need to our homes.                mary page 6).
Ministers feel the pressure
                                                                                                                                                  DEFEND COUNCIL HOUSING Feb/March 2005 3

Ministers are under real pressure       letter from the Deputy Prime Min-
to allow direct investment in coun-     ister announcing that he was with-
cil housing - and they are wavering     drawing his commitment.
in public and in private.                  Some councillors and senior of-
   On 27 September at Labour's          ficers are now trying to argue that
annual conference Deputy Prime          Prescott's October 2005 letter
Minister John Prescott said 'Public     ends the debate. Many of these
financing of housing doesn't treat      are the same people who told ten-
local authorities on a level playing    ants that we'd never win prudential
field and I want to see that            borrowing. Well we proved them
changed and I promised to do that       wrong on that one didn't we!
and look at an enquiry into it'. He        What Prescott's contradictory
told delegates he was 'near agree-      statements in September and
ment' after several private meet-       October show is that Ministers
ings with supporters of the Fourth      are under real pressure and are
Option.                                 wavering.
   In private talks Prescott accepted      The fact is that no amount of
that all 'good' performing councils     huffing and puffing gets over the
should be able to access the extra      fact that privatisation is deeply un-
money available to ALMOs - with-        popular and they face massive op-
out setting up a private company.       position around the country.
   Delegates at the Labour confer-         If we refuse to bow to the bul-

                                                                                                                                                                                                       Picture: Tower Hamlets Recorder
ence voted 8:1 in favour of a 'level    lying and blackmail at local level
playing field' for council housing.     and step up the national cam-
At a meeting the same day Hous-         paign we can exert the pressure
ing Minister Keith Hill said 'We        necessary to win direct invest-
recognise today's vote and we will      ment.
engage as a result of                      Join tenants, councillors, MPs
that...We are continuing a negoti-      and trade union general secre-
ation, a discussion, with the various   taries in signing the open letter de-
interested parties.'                    manding the Deputy Prime
   But one month later, Austin          Minister keep his promises (see
Mitchell MP received a                  back page).                             Tenants want to keep our council tenancies AND get repairs and improvements

Across the country, councillors         dard and invest a further £55m          effect and could enable us to             In Bridgnorth '65% of tenants                                c
                                                                                                                                                               Many councils and so-called
and tenants are choosing to             on top. Two large London bor-           reach the higher standard'.            indicated they were overwhelm-          Independent Tenants Advi-
keep their council housing rather       oughs have announced plans to           (Inside Housing, 18 Feb 2005)          ingly in favour of the district coun-   sors try and make out that
than see the ownership or man-          keep their housing: Greenwich              Blackpool council will advise       cil remaining as landlord of the        only a few ‘nutters’ reject
agement transferred to a private        and Wandsworth. In                      tenants to reject transfer or          properties.                             stock transfer and ALMOs.
company.                                Wandsworth 83% of tenants               ALMO in a pending ballot, and             Independent advisors declared        This snapshot – of councils
  In the last month several of the      support stock retention.                recommend they stick with coun-        the poll to gauge public opinion -      who have recently announced
largest councils in the country           The Options Appraisal Project         cil ownership and management.          and revealed just 15% wanted            ‘stock retention’ – shows
have announced they are keep-           Board in Bristol decided on 16th        'Councillor Eddie Collett, portfolio   transfer'. (Shropshire Star, 24         there is strong support
ing council housing.                    February to back tenants' wishes        holder for regeneration and            Nov 2004).                              amongst tenants and council-
  Tenants in Leicester voted            to maintain 30,000 council              tourism, said: "Having looked at          In Wycombe, where tenants            lors to defend council housing
92% to stay with the council; they      homes.                                  large-scale voluntary transfers in     have already voted NO to privati-       and continue the fight to win
will use government-approved              In South Derbyshire tenants           other areas, we don't feel they        sation once, the result of a recent     more direct investment to im-
borrowing and capital receipts to       voted 86% for retention. Council-       have been any better for tenants       consultation was a resounding           prove our homes.
meet the Decent Homes Stan-             lors told senior officers to re-ex-     than stopping with the council.”       80% against transfer. A joint
                                        amine figures showing a financial       (Housing Today, 18 Feb 2005)           forum of councillors and tenants        to the general fund. The new
                                        shortfall, and chose to meet the           Cambridge tenants voted by          will recommend that the council         Cabinet Member for Housing,
                                        Decent Homes Standard through           79% to stay with the council, de-      retain its stock.                       Paul Russell, is determined to
                                        prudent management. Cllr. Bob           spite being offered an extra              Darlington tenants have              make sure that every spare
                                        Southern, Chair of the Housing          £11m if they voted for ALMO or         shown a 94% preference for              penny is now invested in council
                                        Committee, has called on the            £30m if they chose transfer. 'The      staying with the council, which is      housing.
                                        government to stop robbing              result in Cambridge also illus-        now looking to prudential borrow-          In a recent survey of 600 ten-
                                        councils: 'The government takes         trates that tenants don't willingly    ing as a more democratic and            ants in Oxford, 88% said the
                                        £1.8 million subsidy from this          vote for privatisation unless they     viable option than ALMO.                council remaining as their land-
                                        council every year, and if they cut     are blackmailed into it', local           'Broxtowe Council has opted          lord was 'important' or 'very
                                        that it would have a massive            tenant campaigners say.                to retain its housing stock after       important' (71%). The Council
                                                                                                                       a survey of tenants indicated that      passed the following with all-
                                                                                                                       90 per cent wanted to retain the        party support: "the movement for
BYERS CONDEMNS ODPM BULLYING                                                                                           council as their landlord.' (Inside
                                                                                                                       Housing, 12 Dec 2004)
                                                                                                                                                               a 'level playing field' and a 'fourth
                                                                                                                                                               option' in the stock options
Civil servants in John Prescott's department                Harrison said it raised concerns about local                  Harrow council ditched an            process has been supported by
called for a 'political heavyweight' to stop Labour         democracy.                                                 £11.8 million ALMO bid almost at        (amongst others) the Local Gov-
councillors opposing Government policy.                                                                                the altar. They now plan to             ernment Association, UNISON,
                                                              Housing specialist David Siddle had e-mailed
   Officials wanted ministers to put pressure on            Hilary Bartle, head of the Community Housing               borrow up to £40 million using          and the ODPM Select Commit-
North Tyneside Labour councillors to stop them              Task Force, to say: 'The Labour councillors want           prudential borrowing, according         tee. Council believes that all op-
defending council ownership of housing.                     retention and are spoiling for a fight.'                   to Keith Burchell, cabinet              tions for the proper funding of the
                                                                                                                       member for planning, develop-           Decent Home Standard should
   A member of Mr Prescott's staff e-mailed a sen-            Mr Byers said: 'It is not the job of unelected offi-
ior colleague saying: 'I think we need a political          cials to act in this way. John Harrison, as leader of      ment and housing. (Inside Hous-         be available to local councils.
heavyweight to call their house to order.'                  the Labour councillors, is standing up for the right       ing 22 Oct 2004)                        Council resolves to write to both
                                                            of North Tyneside council tenants to determine                In Southampton a 2002                of Oxford's MPs, urging them to
   The revelation provoked an angry response                                                                           report showed that the council          sign EDM 430 and EDM 1337 if
from North Tyneside MP Stephen Byers. And                   their own future.'
North Tyneside Labour group leader John                     (quoted in The Journal, 11 Feb 2005)                       was diverting a cool 92.5% of its       they have not already done so."
                                                                                                                       right-to-buy receipts every year        (22 Nov 2004).
                                               We can stop

                        “Stock transfer
                        is led by a load
                        of senior offices
                        who see it as
                        the means to a
                        crock of gold. It
                        is led by con-
                        sultants who get
                        rich and move
  throughout the country like a load of
  locusts and carpet-baggers.
     “The victory is Birmingham was
  won by getting out on the estates and
  the streets. Get among your people.          An effective campaign
  Talk to them, get support from your
  unions and tell them the real facts.”
                                               needs some thought and
  Frank Chance                                 planning.
                                                  Local campaigns need to
  “Tenants in                                  be broad based and in-
  Birmingham                                   volve tenants (reps and in-
  are still angry
  and perplexed                                dividuals), union members,
  that the Gov-                                other activists and, where
  ernment were                                 possible, local councillors
  prepared to
  make £650 mil-                               and MPs, who are opposed
  lion available to                            to privatisation of council
  Birmingham to
  write off debt had tenants voted for         housing.
  stock transfer, but that there will not be      Campaigns should be
  a penny extra now that tenants whole-
  heartedly rejected that option.”
                                               tenant led but working
  Lynne Jones MP                               closely with the trade
                                               unions stops the council
                         “Every week I         playing divide and rule-set-
                         meet families         ting tenants and workers
                         who are desper-
                         ate for a decent      off against one another.
                         home.                    The council will some-
                            The Govern-
                         ment needs to
                                               times have knobbled ten-
                         instigate a mas-      ants association reps with
                         sive council          a mixture of flattery and in-
                         house building
  programme and stop wasting valu-             timidation. Don’t give up
  able resources on these privatisation,       just because of a few indi-
  sell-off and transfer schemes.”
  John McDonnell MP                            viduals.
                                                  Mail every TA rep regu-       Camden Bengali women’s group petitioning for direct investment after ALMO No vote

                                                                                                                           What you can do
  “The tenants in
                                               larly and ask to speak at TA     one of the unions) get the
  Stroud District                              meetings. Try also to            message across. Local
  have shown                                   attend and speak at any          radio and TV are increas-
  the way in re-
  jecting LSVT. I                              ‘consultation’ meetings or       ingly interested if you give
  hope       that                              steering groups the council      them a good story.
  Stroud can give                                                                                                             Organise a joint delegation of tenants, councillors and trade
                                               sets up.                            To stop the council intim-
  hope to those                                                                                                               unions to give evidence 12 February Gateshead or 8 March
  who want a                                      Argue that ‘real choice’      idating housing workers it                    Westminster, London
  major re-think
  in Government policy to take place.
                                               means tenants hearing            is important that the coun-                   Organise a local public meeting or debate – don’t wait till bal-
  Hopefully together we can make this          both sides of the argu-          cil unions hold meetings of                   lots start!
  happen.”                                     ment—not just one side!          their members as early as                     Get your council, political party or union to invite speakers and
  David Drew MP
                                                  The key to campaigning        possible. All the council                     debate the Fourth Option
                                               is on the streets and es-        unions oppose housing pri-                    Write and visit MPs, get them to sign EDM 193
                         “The GMB and
                         other support-
                                               tates. This is the only effec-   vatisation. They can pro-                     Affiliate to DCH
                         ers of council        tive way to answer               vide speakers to explain                      Bulk order copies of this newspaper to distribute to tenants,
                         housing en-
                         joyed a demo-
                                               questions, ensure all ten-       the union’s national policy                   trade unionists and councillors
                         cratic victory at     ants hear the arguments          and many have special                      Affiliate
                         Labour Party          and directly challenge what      campaign funds to help                     Tenants/community organisations local £10; regional £25; na-
                                               the council or their so-                                                    tional £50 trade unions local £40; regional £100; national £250
                         when         the                                       branches who want to pro-
                                               called Independent Ten-                                                     Order material
  motion on the fourth option was suc-                                          duce local material to dis-                Campaign briefings: £15 per annum; copies of this broadsheet:
                                               ants Advisor are saying.         tribute to their members
    Direct investment works, it's afford-                                                                                  £18 per 100; £100 per 1000 and ‘Case for council housing’ pam-
  able and it is that rare thing —an              Going door to door helps      and to all tenants.                        phlet: individual copies £5-£2.50 for bulk orders
  answer to a public sector problem that       find people who want to get

                                                                                        Campaign checklist
  does not rely on floating off for an-
  swers into the private sector. The task      involved and will help
  now is to make sure the Government           leaflet their estate or organ-
  delivers on the will of Labour confer-
  ence.”                                       ise a local public meeting.
  Kevin Curran,                                   Good organisation is es-      Find out what the council is proposing –                        High visibility is important – get posters
  GMB General Secretary                        sential. Get different           read the council’s ‘options appraisal’ report,                  up on every estate and street, and borrow a
                                               people to take responsibil-      ‘business plan’ and minutes of meetings.                        car loudspeaker to tour estates
  “What I encoun-                              ity for distribution in each     Identify what repairs/improvements the                          Send letters to the local press, organise
  tered was per-
  plexity, unease,                             area. Try and pair up a          council is proposing, the cost and the                          lobbies or stunts to get publicity and ask
  suspicion about                              tenant and trade unionist to     funding gap the council claims exists. Make                     trade unions to sponsor adverts in the press
  why          this
                                               maximise coordination.           up your own mind whether this is an                             to put the arguments across
  [ALMO] was
  necessary... the                             Where possible get ten-          accurate picture.                                               Approach local unions for financial
  vote was a                                   ants’ associations to do         Organise a local DCH meeting to plan the                        support. Many unions have special regional
  thumping, un-
                                               their own estates and in-        campaign. Involve tenants, trade unionists                      and national funds that local branches can
  ambiguous, clear no…if choice is the
                                                                                and, where possible councillors and MPs                         apply to.
  fourth principle of public service reform    volve community centres,
  how can you possibly ignore the choice                                        too.
  that tenants have made?” “There is no        clubs and other local or-        Produce a good local leaflet and                                The earlier you start campaigning the better.
  clear evidence that separating the           ganisations too.                 newspapers to distribute to every home.                         Councils now regularly hold the ballot earlier
  strategic from management, that
  ALMO, that RSLs lead to improved
                                                  Letters to local papers       Leaflet every home but also have stalls at                      than publicised to out-manoeuvre opponents.
  performance”.                                encourage the debate and,        markets and high streets and give out                           DCH can help with writing leaflets and
  Jane Roberts,                                in the run up to the ballot,     material at churches, mosques and parents                       speakers. There are plenty of examples on
  leader Camden Council
                                               paid adverts (sponsored by       outside primary schools                               
                                                                                                                                            DEFEND COUNCIL HOUSING Feb/March 2005 5

                                                                                                                                                                                                    “What is the
                                                                                                                                                                                                    sense in a
                                                                                                                                                                                                    highly rated
                                                                                                                                                                                                    housing author-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    ity being forced
                                                                                                                                                                                                    to transfer its
                                                                                                                                                                                                    stock to alter-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    native manage-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    ment        and
                                                                                                                                                                                                    financial control?
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Successive governments have
                                                                                                                                                                                                    wasted a lot of money pursuing these

Tenants’ questions and answers
                                                                                                                                                                                                    policies when the money would have
                                                                                                                                                                                                    been better spent on improving the
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Brian Iddon MP

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           “Tenants do not
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           have a free
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           choice, and
Can the Council provide decent                                                                                                                                                                                             there are those
homes?                                                                                                                                                                                                                     in Government
   Council directors will produce figures                                                                                                                                                                                  who have an
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           almost ideologi-
showing the amount of money needed                                                                                                                                                                                         cal bias against
to meet ‘decent homes standard’ - or a                                                                                                                                                                                     Councils re-
local ‘decent homes plus’. They will say                                                                                                                                                            maining a major provider of housing.

                                                                                                                                                      Picture: Jess Hurd,
                                                                                                                                                                                                       We do not want to see this matter
the council hasn’t got the money, and                                                                                                                                                               of vital concern to tenants and council
must bring in PFI, stock transfer or an                                                                                                                                                             workers alike kicked into the Treasury
ALMO to get extra funds.                                                                                                                                                                            long grass. We need a clear state-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    ment that the review will start straight
   You should ask:                                                                                                                                                                                  away and be concluded quickly, and
      What work do tenants want done                                                                                                                                                                certainly before a General Election.”
as a priority? Is this the same as the                                                                                                                                                              Jack Dromey,
                                                                                                                                                                                                    TGWU Deputy General Secretary
Council’s plans?                                                                                                                                                                                    during Labour conference debtate
      When could tenants’ priorities be
met using existing resources?
                                                                                                                                                                                                    “The recent decision of the Labour
      Is all the available money (includ-                                                                                                                                                           Party confer-
ing housing capital receipts) being used                                                                                                                                                            ence to oppose
for housing?                                                                                                                                                                                        the privatisation
                                                                                                                                                                                                    of council hous-
   Get help from sympathetic councillors        Austin Mitchell MP speaking at the 350-strong DCH conference in October last year.                                                                  ing sends a
and MPs, council unions and DCH to un-                                                                                                                                                              clear message
ravel their business plans.                     part of an international agreement by the                 rights!                                                                                   that this gov-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    ernment needs
                                                World Trade Organisation. The Private                                                                                                               to re-think their
What do we have to lose?                        Finance Initiative mortgages the future                   What are our choices?                                                                     position. Local
   Council housing is publicly-owned and        of your estate in return for private fund-                   Every council has major repairs and                                                    authorities provide a good service to
                                                                                                                                                                                                    tenants with a well-trained workforce
funded and protected from market pres-          ing. Arms Length Management Organi-                       management and maintenance al-                                                            that ensures good levels of mainte-
sure and speculation. As council tenants        sations are private companies set up to                   lowances, and capital receipts from                                                       nance. Council tenants should not be
we have the most secure tenancy, lower          manage homes and workers who initially                    Right to Buy which can all be used to do                                                  penalised for choosing to retain this
rents, legal rights and a landlord we can       remain publicly-owned and employed –                      improvement work. The choice for coun-                                                    Derek Simpson,
hold to account. Some or all of these           but see p 5 & 7).                                         cil tenants is to use existing resources                                                  General secretary Amicus
rights are removed if we accept one- or                                                                   and campaign to get an investment al-
two-stage privatisation options (see p7).       Will tenants get more control?                            lowance (the ‘Fourth Option’) OR to                                                       “We can win this campaign – for us
Workers stand to lose jobs, employment            This is a major con. Tenants on the                     accept stock transfer, PFI or ALMO.                                                                             today and our
and pension rights, and union recogni-          board are in a minority, usually unelected                Don’t let them call it ‘stay as you are’.                                                                       children tomor-
tion. New landlords can and do break            and totally unaccountable – their legal                                                                                                                                       We can win
their promises – there has been no know         duty is as company directors, to defend                   Can we get direct investment?                                                                                   first class coun-
legal action to force them to keep pre-         business interests (see p6&7)                             When?                                                                                                           cil housing for
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          tenants and pro-
transfer agreements.                                                                                          Tenants want a real choice – not                                                                            tect the jobs and
                                                How do we get a balanced debate?                          blackmail. That means a ‘fourth option’                                                                         conditions of
They say it’s not privatisation                    The housing minister says tenants                      of investment so we can stay with the                                                                           public sector
                                                                                                                                                                                                    workers who want to provide a first
    Housing associations/companies              should hear ‘equal information about the                  council and get repairs and improve-                                                      class service too.
depend on private funding, and function         pros and cons’. District Audit has ruled                  ments. This is what tenants want – and                                                       No one wants privatisation. Stand
as businesses. They are legally in the          against councils for financing one-sided                  it is now supported by more than 250                                                      up to the blackmail. Get tenants, trade
                                                                                                                                                                                                    unions and, where possible, council-
private sector. BUPA is also technically        propaganda. Even councillors who sup-                     MPs, all the major trade unions, coun-                                                    lors and MPs in your area to resist
‘not for profit’ – but if they take over your   port privatisation can be won to support-                 cils, councillors and the Local Govern-                                                   stock transfer, PFI and ALMOs and
local hospital you’d lose NHS services –        ing the principle of a fair and balanced                  ment Association (see p3). There is                                                       step up the pressure for a quick agree-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    ment on the ‘fourth option’.”
if it moves from public to private then it’s    debate.                                                   money to pay for it (see p2). The govern-                                                 Alan Walter,
privatisation!                                     Some councils try to avoid a ballot on                 ment is losing this argument – you can                                                    Defend Council Housing
    The government is pushing full or part-     ALMO or PFI. A formal ballot is agreed                    help us win it now.
privatisation of many public services, as       in some areas – so demand your equal                                                                                                                “The construc-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    tion     union

 Future of                                                                     Tenants and
                                                                                                                                                                                                    UCATT are
                                                                                                                                                                                                    proud to be as-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    sociated with

                                                                                                                                                                                                    tenants, politi-

                                                                               workers resist
                                                                                                                                                                                                    cians,      and
                                                                                                                                                                                                    fellow trade
                                                                                                                                                                                                    unionists in de-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    fending council
                                                                                                                                                                                                    housing, and we believe that we will
                                                                                                                                                                                                    win the fourth option
                                                                               Tenants and council workers have a common interest in defend-                                                           The government takes £1.5 billion
 “Arms-length management organisations could take over own-                    ing council housing. We need to confront management lies.                                                            every year out of tenants’ rents and
 ership of concil homes by 2006 under radical new proposals                    Challenge them to a debate. Take the arguments to all staff and                                                      makes an annual profit of half a billion
                                                                                                                                                                                                    from the right-to-buy sales.
 drawn up by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister” (Inside                  make sure they hear the case against privatisation, the facts                                                           This money rightfully belongs to
 Housing, 3 September 2004).                                                   of how workers are affected, and the alternative case for coun-                                                      council housing, and could fund the
 This is exactly what DCH predicted and why we say ALMOs                       cil housing.                                                                                                         fourth option and clear the investment
 are two-stage privatisations.                                                 And don’t let anyone forget: the senior managers and consult-                                                        Alan Ritchie,
 Start a campaign in your area to insist that your ALMO reverts                ants pushing privatisation stand to gain major pay rises and                                                         UCATT General Secretary
 back to direct council control - see off attempts to complete                 bonuses if they succeed.
 the privatisation process.                                                    Don’t let them win at your expense!

                                  MPs demand investment
 House of Commons: ODPM
 Housing, Planning, Local
 Government and the Regions
 Committee Decent Homes
                                  and condemn dogma
 Published: May 2004              ODPM Select Committee of MPs                                                                      choice is a charade unless Local Author-
                                                                                                                                    ities are able to act in accordance with
                                                                                                                                                                                      lution, as well as the one preferred by
                                                                                                                                                                                      tenants, may well be that the Local Au-
 Contact: The Publications
 Centre, PO Box 29, Norwich,
                                  back ‘investment allowance’                                                                       the wishes of their tenants. We recom-
                                                                                                                                    mend that the Government take immedi-
                                                                                                                                                                                      thority retain full ownership and manage-
                                                                                                                                                                                      ment responsibilities (Paragraph 128)
                                  The influential ODPM Select                                                                       ate steps to ensure that where a majority            [23] The Committee recommends that
 NR3 1GN Tel: 0870 600 5522       Committee of MPs reported on                                                                      of tenants wish for their homes to remain         Local Authorities be granted wider rights   ‘Decent Homes’ in May 2004. This                                                                  under Council management, they are not            to borrow prudentially against rental
 /pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmodp      followed an extensive enquiry by the                                                              penalised when it comes to access to              income streams for the purpose of im-
                                  cross-party group of senior MPs                                                                   funding for investment in Decent Homes            provements to the stock and to help
 m/46/4602.htm                    whose role is to scrutinise the Office                                                            or any other policy initiatives.”                 create sustainable communities. We rec-
                                  of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM).                                                                  166. “… The Committee is not con-             ommend that the Government recon-
 Public Accounts Committee           They heard evidence from many coun-                                                            vinced that ALMOs and stock transfer              sider adopting the principle of investment
 Improving Social Housing         cils and professional organisations. The                                                          RSLs necessarily lead to better tenant            allowances to Local Authorities (Para-
                                  final report is a damning indictment of          control , or even ownership…”                    participation and satisfaction. There is no       graph 152)
 Through Transfer                 current government policy on council                126. “the committee heard evidence to         reason to suggest that the same results              [24] Local Authorities hold the poten-
 Published: March 2003            housing, and comes out in support of a           suggest that there is no clear positive cor-     and management innovations could not              tial to manage housing stock just as ef-
 Contact: The Publications        ‘level playing field’ and ‘investment al-        relation between a separation                    be achieved under Council manage-                 fectively as RSLs, ALMOs or PFI
 Centre, PO Box 29, Norwich,      lowance’ to provide the fourth option ten-       of the two tasks and excellence in either        ment, given equal resources.”                     schemes. Consequently, Government fi-
                                  ants want.                                       strategic management or stock manage-                220. “our final, but vital recommenda-        nancial support available for investment
 NR3 1GN Tel: 0870 600 5522          “We believe that the target of achiev-        ment…”                                           tion is that the treasury commit additional       in Decent Homes under those schemes   ing Decent Homes in the social housing              139. “We have not heard evidence that         funding to the Decent Homes policy suf-           should be available on an equal footing
 /pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmpub      sector is being used as a Trojan Horse           creating an ALMO per se enhances the             ficient to ensure that the current Decent         to Local Authorities managing their own
                                  by the Government in a dogmatic quest            achievement of Decent Homes, or                  Homes 2010 target be met, and that a              stock. (Paragraph 154)
                                  to minimise the proportion of housing            indeed tenant satisfaction. The option of        subsequent ‘Decent Homes Plus’ target                [29] We recommend that a level play-
                                  stock managed by Local Authorities. The          creating an ALMO should continue to be           can also be met."                                 ing field between the different ownership
 National Audit Office            government must put its money where its          available to Local Authorities, but there                                                          and management options should encom-   mouth is and leave it up to tenants to           should be no financial incentive for Coun-       Extracts from Conclusions &                       pass not only funding mechanisms di-
                                  decide who should own and manage                 cils to do so.”                                  Recommendations                                   rectly related to the Decent Homes
                                  their homes.”                                       153. “Apart from enabling Local Au-              [20] The Committee recommends that             target, but also funding for wider invest-
                                                                                   thorities to borrow on an equal footing          the government revisit its dogmatic pur-          ment purposes… (Paragraph 172)
 House of Commons Council         Extracts from the report:                        with Registered Social Landlords (RSLs),         suit of separation of stock management               [30] We believe that the requirement
 Housing Group The Case for       [from section 4]                                 it would clearly be fair for Local Authori-      and strategic management of housing. A            for tenant consultation and approval
                                     125. “The Government is in effect             ties to receive the same levels of Govern-       flexible policy and a level playing field is      should be identical regardless of whether
 the ‘Fourth Option’ for
                                  using the Decent Homes target as an in-          ment investment grants as those                  needed so that tenants and councillors            a Local Authority intends to go down a
 Council Housing                  direct means to lever local authority            available to ALMOs or PFI schemes.”              can tailor solutions to suit local circum-        PFI, ALMO or stock transfer route (Para-
 Published: June 2004             housing stock out of direct local authority         163. “…the commitment to tenant               stances. In some cases, the optimal so-           graph 174)

                                  A waste of public money
 Contact: Austin Mitchell MP,
 House of Commons, London
 SW1A 0AA Tel: 020 7219 4559

 Local Government
                                                                                                                                    transfer value calculated would have              ations surveyed by the National Audit
 Information Unit Housing:
 The Right To Choose
                                  Analysis of PAC/NAO Reports                                                                       been over £27 million (or 53%) higher.’
                                                                                                                                       On top of this, transfer landlords make
                                                                                                                                                                                      Office had already exceeded guidelines
                                                                                                                                                                                      on rent increases.
 Published June 2004.             Stock transfer is expensive, poor                                                                 extra money out of our homes by ‘refi-               The report comments: ‘A Housing
 Contact: LGIU, 22 Upper          value for money, and does not                                                                     nancing’ loans. The Housing Corpora-              Manager of a local authority might see
                                  match the government’s claims of                                                                  tion and the government have no control           his salary increase by 20% to 30% on
 Woburn Place, London WC1H                                                                                                          over what these surpluses may be used             transfer, and this factor could influence
                                  tenant satisfaction and increased
 0TB Tel: 020 7554 2800 Free      choice.                                                                                           for. In theory, ‘Registered social land-          the decision to recommend transfer.’
 Download:                           These are the stark conclusions from                                                           lords are not-for-profit organisations…’,            The report concludes that tenants
                                  the Public Accounts Committee report                                                              but as the National Audit Office points           have little choice during the transfer                                                                                                                                                        process –
                                  ‘Improving Social Housing Through                                                                 out: ‘Up to 49 per cent of an RSL’s ac-
 _pdf/HOUSES.pdf                  Transfer’, published in March 2003. The                                                           tivities may be in non-social housing                ‘Tenants may face little choice but to
                                  committee’s report also demonstrates                                                              areas… these uses included…market                 vote for transfer if they want their hous-
                                                                                   billion over 30 years’.
                                  how council housing is undervalued by                                                             renting’.                                         ing renovated and repaired. The local
 Housing: Improving                                                                                                                                                                   authority might be their first choice but if
                                  the government at the time of sell-off, al-      Public Assets Sold Off At
 services through resident        lowing housing associations to make                                                               Dissatisfied Tenants, Less Choice                 the local authority has no financing avail-
                                                                                   Knock-down Prices
 involvement                      windfall surpluses and extra gains which                                                             The government justifies the extra             able to it, tenants have to accept trans-
                                                                                       The government is selling off public
 Audit Commission, June 2004      they can invest in private, non-social                                                            cost of transfer to the taxpayer by saying        fer to achieve better homes...In many
                                                                                   assets for far less than their real value.
                                  housing schemes.                                                                                  there are ‘unquantifiable benefits’, in-          cases, therefore, the transfer landlord
 Audit Commission Publications,                                                    Councils calculate the value of their
                                                                                                                                    cluding increased tenant satisfaction             has merely displaced the local authority
                                                                                   ‘housing stock’ (our homes!) according
 PO Box 99, Wetherby, LS23        Stock Transfer Costs Taxpayer                    to government guidelines, but at least           and a greater choice of landlords for ten-        landlord as the principal supplier, and
 7JA Tel: 0800 502030             More                                                                                              ants.                                             hence tenants’ choice of landlord is not
                                                                                   two of the assumptions in the guidelines
                                     The report’s main conclusion is that                                                              It is astonishing how little satisfaction      increased.’[615]                                                      are false. The government assumes that
                                  ‘Housing transfers are more expensive            the stock will be worth nothing after thirty     levels rise after transfer, with thousands
 roducts/NATIONAL-                for the taxpayer than local authority                                                             of pounds spent on each home. On av-
                                                                                   years – which the evidence from the Na-                                                            LOCAL GOVERNMENT
 REPORT/2640A11E-6E8D-            repair and renovation.’ It bases this on a       tional Audit Office demonstrates is not          erage tenants are only 3% more satis-             INFORMATION UNIT HOUSING:
 4B60-87B8-                       calculation by the National Audit Office         true in practice – and it also uses an ar-       fied with the ‘condition of homes’ – and          THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE
                                  that it would cost ‘£1,300 a home more           tificially inflated figure for interest pay-     6% less satisfied with the ‘works under-
 1E44B9233384/Resident_invol      than the equivalent renovation under             ments.                                           taken’. Tenants are actually less satisfied       The Local Government Information Unit
 vement_Report.pdf                local authority ownership… In terms of               ‘For one of their case study transfers,      with the quality of the repairs service           is an ‘independent policy and research
                                  the potential total costs, the Office esti-      undertaken in 1995, they showed that if          after transfer; and 15% of tenants con-           organisation’ for local authorities. In June
                                  mated that the transfer of a million             the model had used the landlord’s actual         sidered that housing services generally
 Centre for Public Services       homes… would cost the taxpayer £4.2                                                                                                                 2004, in the wake of the ODPM Select
                                                                                   cost of capital (4.5%) rather than 8%, the       had got worse. 17% of housing associ-             Committee report into Decent Homes, it
 The Case for the 4th Option
 for Council Housing and a                                                                                                                                                            produced a pamphlet which argues for
 Critique of Arms Length          Tenant enpowerment – Audit Commission explodes myths                                                                                                real choice for local authorities and their
 Management Organisations                                                                                                                                                                The pamphlet examines the history of
 Published: May 2004              A recent Audit Commission report                    “According to our research, there is          the role at the time of the ballot. At the time
                                                                                                                                                                                      council housing and the effect of years of
                                  criticises councils for “mis-selling” the        much less certainty about the benefits of in-    of transfer, tenants are often led to believe
 Contact: Centre for Public       role of board members when                       cluding residents on boards of housing as-                                                         under investment, and looks at current
                                                                                                                                    that they will have an explicit role in repre-    government policy. Using the select com-
 Services. 1, Sidney Street,      promoting transfer. It shows that                sociations.” [page 45 para 92]                   senting the interest of their fellow tenants
 Sheffield S1 4RG                 setting up a separate company does                                                                                                                  mittee report and the experience of differ-
                                                                                                                                    on the board.’                                    ent local authorities it shows the
 Tel: 0114 272 6683               not ‘empower’ tenants or improve                 No tenant representation
                                                                                                                                       “One director of operations told us: ‘the      weaknesses in the government’s argu-
                                  services.                                            Tenants on the board do not represent             Putting tenants on the board of a hous-      other tenants:                                   role of tenant board members is not always        ments, and analyses the financial case for
                                  ing company does not empower tenants.                ‘Many tenants of such housing associa-       understood by tenant representatives out-         stock retention. It calls for councils to be al-
 Changing Boards, Emerging        The tenant board members are in a minor-         tions feel that they are on the board to ‘rep-   side of the board. They want them to              lowed to build new homes, and demon-
                                  ity, and are legally obliged to put the com-     resent’ a constituency of tenants … This is      behave like representatives and put pres-         strates how this would contribute to wider
                                  pany’s interests before those of tenants.        not compatible with the accepted principle       sure on them to do so.’” [page 49 para 101]       regeneration and increased choice. The
 Liz Cairncross, Oxford Brookes   Tenants on boards are completely unac-           that dictates that as a board member they                                                          report concludes:
 University Paper presented to    countable, and there is little evidence of im-   have to work for the interest of the organi-     Government should stop mis-selling                   “Council housing can be a vital part of
 the Housing Studies              proved service delivery. The report looks at     sation: that is, that the directors responsi-       The report recommends the Housing              achieving sustainable communities, of
                                  housing associations, but its conclusions        bility takes supremacy’
 Association Conference, Spring                                                                                                     Corporation and ODPM reconsider current           joining up services, and of working in
                                  apply equally to ALMOs, which have the               The report is critical of the promises
 2004                                                                                                                               regulations on board members in LSVT as-          partnership with other organisations and
                                  same board structure.                            made to tenants before transfer:
                                                                                       ‘Sometimes problems stem from expec-         sociations and ALMOs “to address the              residents… The case for equal treatment
                                  No Quantifiable Benefits                         tations that are set up when resident board      common misperception that they are there          between tenants that choose to stay with
                                     Having tenants on boards doesn’t lead         members are recruited… Often this misap-         in a representational capacity.” [page 53         the council and those that opt for change
                                  to any quantifiably improved services.           prehension is a direct result of mis-selling     para 108]                                         is compelling.”
                                                                                                                                                                              DEFEND COUNCIL HOUSING Feb/March 2005 7

Transfer threatens tenants’ rights. The         post-transfer rent guarantee only lasts           tion rights. Many tenants who transfer find
transfer of council housing to a Registered     for five years – and 17% of RSLs break            themselves (without warning, and without         The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is        and several millions of pounds later, on
Social Landlord (a housing association or       these guarantees. Rent convergence is             a ballot) the tenants of a completely differ-    new in housing, but has an appalling           Chalcots no improvements have been
similar company) means higher rents,            a myth. RSLs, under pressure from                 ent landlord who has no interest in local        record in schools and hospitals. Hous-         carried out at all.
more evictions, a less democratic housing       banks, keep lobbying for more freedom             concerns.                                        ing PFI schemes are expensive, poor
service, and big pay rises for senior man-      to raise rents.                                      Few RSLs have effective tenants’ asso-        value for money, and risky. They will          Public housing not private
agers. Our homes will be privatised –           One third of RSL tenants’ homes will not          ciations and tenants on the board are            lead to worse services and escalating          profit
transferred into the market-driven private      reach a decent standard by 2010.                  legally barred from acting as representa-        costs, with profit-driven companies            Private finance is expensive – costing
sector where banks and building societies       Transfer RSLs have housing                        tives of other tenants. The Housing Cor-         managing our homes. Tenants on the             much more than direct government bor-
are in control.                                 management costs a full 39 percent                poration now allows board members to be          Maiden Lane estate in Camden voted             rowing. PFI developers expect a 15%
                                                higher than local authorities. Their chief        paid (See page 6 and below for more de-          by over 80% to say NO to PFI in a              profit on their investment, ‘generating
                                                executives receive fat-cat salaries               tails on tenants’ involvement in boards).        recent ballot. (February 2004).                income’ from your estate. PFI deals
Loss of Secure Tenure –                         (sometimes more than £200,000), while                                                                                                             often involve ‘gifts’ of public land as an
More Evictions                                  ordinary workers lose out. Government             Expensive Waste of                               PFI is expensive                               incentive, with council homes on the
                                                                                                                                                   The National Audit Office says PFI value       sites demolished. In Leeds the Little
Council tenants’ secure tenancies are           research found only 35% of staff
                                                transferred to RSLs were still on their
                                                                                                  Public Money                                     for money claims are based on ‘errors,         London scheme involves the loss of 200
lost after transfer, becoming ‘assured’                                                           Transfer wastes public money and
tenancies, which make eviction easier.          former local government terms and                                                                  irrelevant or unrealistic analysis and         council homes, to be refurbished and of-
                                                                                                  diverts funds from where they are most           pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo.’ High           fered at yuppie rents.
Secure tenancies are created in law,            conditions. (DTLR Dec 2001). Many are
                                                                                                  needed.                                          rates of interest to banks and profits for
giving council tenants statutory rights, as     anti-union or have very limited
                                                                                                  (See summary of PAC report opposite).            the private company mean less for re-          PFI – escalating costs
well as the contractual rights of a             recognition agreements with unions.
                                                                                                  Government argues that stock transfer            pairs and improvements. ‘PFI credits’          Massive amounts will be spent on
tenancy agreement. No amount of                                                                   brings in extra money from the private
promises from an RSL can equal this.            Privatisation                                     sector, but it’s just an accounting fiddle.
                                                                                                                                                   only cover part of the high costs of run-      lawyers, consultants, monitoring the
New tenants won’t get any guarantees            “Large Scale Voluntary Transfer is a                                                               ning the scheme—all the council’s ten-         contract and higher senior managers’
                                                                                                  It makes government spending invisible           ants will be subsidising the extra costs       pay. Because PFI schemes are so com-
over their rights, so over time tenancy         private-sector landlord in legal terms”           by moving the borrowing out of the
rights will be eroded further. 16.5             (Gwynneth Taylor, then Head of                                                                     of a private company running one               plicated they provide a gravy train for all
                                                                                                  public sector and “off-balance sheet”.           estate. Leaseholder contributions are          sorts of different advisers and consult-
percent of RSL evictions involved the           Housing, Local Government Association,            But tenants and taxpayers pay again
use of automatic powers under                   2002). RSLs are private companies in                                                               capped at £10,000 per property—which           ants to get their sticky fingers on.
                                                                                                  towards higher rents through higher              means that tenants could be subsidis-
controversial ‘Ground 8’ (which cannot          law; their borrowing is private not public.       housing benefit (£240 million a year
be used against council tenants)                RSLs borrow directly from private                                                                  ing leaseholders in the PFI scheme by          PFI – worse services
                                                                                                  higher, according to UNISON’s                    up to £80,000 each.                            PFI schemes are notorious for poor
according to a National Housing                 lenders at higher costs than councils.            calculations). The government budgeted
Federation survey of 116 RSLs. Pledges          They function increasingly like                                                                                                                   standards and being difficult to police. If
                                                                                                  £800m last year to write off debts left          PFI is risky                                   your council has any services con-
not to use this are legally worthless.          businesses, with mergers, takeovers               after the housing stock had been sold. It
Overall evictions by RSLs (Registered           and lenders in the driving seat.                                                                   PFI does not transfer the financial risk.      tracted out for even five years, you’ll
                                                                                                  has handed over billions to housing              In cases where the finances do not             know how difficult it is to get the contrac-
Social Landlords) have risen by 36              The Housing Corporation, watchdog                 associations to take on “negative value”
percent. Figures from Communities               over Registered Social Landlords,                                                                  stacked up, the PFI consortiums                tors to do what they promised. The idea
                                                                                                  estates. And what has all this achieved?         demand and get more government sub-            that tenants will be involved in monitor-
Scotland show the number of housing             actively encourages mergers and                   ‘stock transfer’ has taken place
association evictions has risen by 64 per       takeovers                                                                                          sidy. Mowlem (eight PFI contracts with         ing a thirty-year contract with a private
                                                                                                  generally in the least deprived local            total value £826 million) says PFI offers      developer is nonsense. With an ‘output’
cent in two years to 522 in the year            (Rationalisation and Restructuring,               authority areas
2000-01. That equates to 3.7 in every           Housing Corporation Nov 2002).                                                                     them ‘longer-term revenues than tradi-         based monitoring system and the fact
                                                                                                  (Source: Hansard, written answers,               tional procurement methods and carries         that only 10% of any payments can be
1,000 tenancies, compared to what                                                                 4 July 2002, col 563W)
Shelter says is 2 in every 1,000 for            John Belcher, chief executive of £185.8                                                            significantly        lower       risks’.       withheld when targets are missed, ten-
councils.                                       million turnover Anchor Trust, says ‘We’re                                                                                                        ants have little chance of influencing the
                                                                                                  The number of new homes built in                 PFI takes years to set up                      quality of the services they receive.
(Inside Housing 19 Feb 03)                      a business and all our divisions are ex-          Britain over the last five years is lower
                                                pected to make a surplus’                                                                          PFI schemes are long-winded, compli-               The idea that these private compa-
                                                                                                  than at any time since the second world          cated and often delayed by hard hag-           nies will be running our estates when
                                                (Guardian 8.1.03)                                 war. ‘The biggest loss of new homes is
Higher Rents and Worse                                                                            in the social sector…caused by the
                                                                                                                                                   gling. The Chalcots PFI, one of the first      our children are the tenants is truly
                                                                                                                                                   ‘pathfinder’ schemes, is still on hold after   frightening. The extra costs involved, the
Services                                        Less Democracy                                    ending of the local authority                    five years. Costs escalate before con-         contracts negotiated behind closed
RSL rents are higher than councils – 17            Direct accountability of council land-         housebuilding programmes’                        tracts are finally signed –reportedly by       doors, and the real danger that con-
per cent on average, despite attempts to        lords is lost. Transfer landlords often cross     (Roof magazine July/August 2003)                 over 60 per cent in Sandwell, and to           tracts can and do go pear shaped at our
close the gap. Service charges are also         council boundaries and cannot be held to                                                           more than double the original estimate         expense, mean council tenants will lose
higher, as tenants pay for the higher           account locally, affecting services to the                                                         of £21 million on Chalcots. Five years         out if we let them bring in PFI.
cost of borrowing and repairs. The RSL          homeless, joint waiting lists and nomina-

The case against ALMOs
                                                                                                                      have to look at their structure again…The housing               ‘Real tenants’ power is what happens when dem-
                                                                                                                      association model is an obvious one to look at and          ocratically elected politicians have to listen to a large
                                                                                                                      we are looking at it…Our view has to be that it stays       enough collective voice’ Lesley Carty, Camden DCH
                                                                                                                      within the Whitehall family until we have formulated            Massive amounts will be spent on consultants, re-
                                                                                                                      our own views and particularly that the Treasury is         organisation and higher senior managers’ pay
Arms Length Management Organisations are the                  The second stage – privatisation – is already hap-      comfortable. Then we will go out to the relevant pri-           Setting up a new private company isn’t cheap—
government’s strategy for two-stage privatisation.        pening in some areas. Westminster ALMO ran out of           vate sector partners.’                                      Leeds spent an extra £1 million on managers alone.
Democratic control is lost with the management of         money after two years and tenants on two large              (Inside Housing 13.6.03)                                    Ashfield’s ALMO cost £2 million to set up. ALMOs
our homes moved into a separate private company;          estates were told their homes must be sold off if they                                                                  have spent tenants’ rents on new corporate images
and tenants’ power is undermined by a board on            want the promised improvements. In Hillingdon, now          Elected councillors will no longer be account-              and logos, money which could have been used for
which tenant reps are outvoted and bound by corpo-        managed by an ALMO, 500 empty homes are being               able for what happens to our homes. It’s a                  repairs! Ordinary housing workers will lose out by
rate responsibility. £millions is wasted on consult-      sold off without a ballot in a process known as ‘trick-     recipe for excuses                                          being TUPE transferred, and staff turnover and
ants, lawyers and other set up costs, new offices and     le transfer’. Other ALMOs are already contracting out       Council housing is the only form of housing where           demoralisation will affect the service. Camden coun-
big new salaries for top managers.                        services and demolishing estates.                           tenants elect their landlord. Keeping our homes             cil spent £500,000 trying in vain to persuade tenants
                                                              What will happen when the ALMO’s five-year con-         under democratic control is worth fighting for.             to accept an ALMO. It’s an outrageous waste of ten-
This government wants to privatise council                tract with the council comes to an end? ‘Arm’s-length                                                                   ants’ money.
housing—ALMOs are a key part of their strate-             management organisations could take over owner-             A separate private company means less co-
gy                                                        ship of council homes by 2006 under radical new             ordination between housing and other servic-                Risky—you won’t necessarily get the money
                                                          proposals drawn up by the Office of the Deputy              es—when we need more! (see p 3 and 6)                       One in three ALMOs haven’t received the promised
This government is clearly committed to privatisation     Prime Minister’ (Inside Housing 3.9.04). This is                                                                        money. Unless an ALMO gains at least a ‘2 star’ rat-
of public services. The government’s election mani-       exactly what we predicted and why we describe               Tenants on the board will not be allowed to rep-            ing the government won’t give them the extra fund-
festo in 2001 included a target of selling off 200,000    ALMOs as two-stage privatisation.                           resent our interests—their hands will be tied by            ing. Leeds set up six ALMOs, but only two got
council homes a year each year until 2010. But ten-           We all want improvements to our homes but we            company law                                                 enough stars. Salford ALMO—along with others—
ants in most major towns and cities won’t accept a        are not prepared to bow to blackmail. Ask yourself:         The biggest argument used by supporters of ALMOs            has failed to get 2 stars. Tenants are left with all the
straight sell-off. That’s why Ministers have come up      why can’t the government give the extra money to            is that having tenants on the board will give us real       expensive setup costs and no extra money.
with this ALMO (Arms Length Management                    the council direct—as tenants are demanding—                power. But this is not true in law or in practise as
Organisation) formula—originally used by the Tories       unless they have a privatisation agenda?                    recent research and a damning Audit Commission              Winning direct investment without strings is
in the 1980s to privatise local authority bus services.       An ALMO ‘is compatible with achieving full stock        report make clear (see page 6).                             worth fighting for. We’ve already won conces-
We call it two-stage privatisation.                       transfer         in      the        longer      term.’         The first councils to set up ALMOs had the support       sions. We can win much more!
   The council sets up a private company to manage        (PriceWaterhouseCoopers report for Haringey coun-           of key tenants’ representatives. Decisions were             Government say they are in favour of ‘choice in pub-
its homes. The council still owns the housing stock,      cil, June 2001)                                             taken very quickly and without real public debate.          lic services’. Ministers are under increasing pressure
The governments aim is to divide us, so the second            Wendy Jarvis, ODPM head of local authority              Almost nowhere did tenants hear the arguments               to concede a ‘fourth option’ of direct investment with
stage will be easier to achieve, with tenants split up    housing finance said                                        against, until the campaign in Camden where the             no strings attached. Vote No to ALMO and tell them
and a new company running their homes.                        ALMOs ‘don’t own their stock at the moment. We          ALMO train was finally derailed.                            we want direct investment in council housing!

 Tenants marginalised and powerless
 In a study of housing association              of knowledge and understanding, par-            sociation sector… Walker (2000)              funders and the regulator as individ-           valued in giving legitimacy to transfer
 boards, including extensive research,          ticularly on the financial side, which          characterises housing associations as        ual and corporate members of the                associations’. The role of voluntary
 Liz Cairncross’ most important conclu-         tenant board members lack, leaving              behaving increasingly like private           board, primarily an upward accounta-            board members is ‘primarily symbolic,
 sion is about the marginalisation of           them marginalised and unable to con-            sector organisations ‘property-driven’       bility.’                                        providing a fig leaf to cover the un-
 tenant board members:                          tribute effectively to board discus-            and managing stock as an asset to               There is a complete loss of demo-            palatable fact that the real power lies
    ‘Non tenant board members of                sions.’                                         maximise returns’                            cratic accountability in this process,          elsewhere. ‘
 housing associations have increas-                She notes the increasing commer-               She confirms tenants can not rep-          and it causes problems for the tenant              She quotes research showing:
 ingly become ‘elite volunteers’, that is       cialisation of Housing Associations:            resent other tenants on the board:           board members because of their ‘un-                ‘boards were subject to processes
 predominantly male, graduate profes-              ‘The introduction of discretionary             ‘While tenant board members may            comfortably ambiguous role’.                    of manipulation, screening and insti-
 sionals and managers… There is a               payment for board members… is an-               perceive themselves and be per-                 Tenants on the boards of transfer            tutionalised pre-emption… hapless
 danger that boards dominated by pro-           other indicator of the growing parallels        ceived as representatives, formally          associations are only there in a ‘sym-          and manipulated by chief executives
 fessionals are likely to assume a level        between the private and housing as-             their accountability is to shareholders,     bolic’ role: ‘tenant board members are          and other executive directors.’
     Tell Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott

                                                                                                                                              John Prescott
At the Labour Party annual conference                                       unions and                         MPs to sign the
                                                                                                                               Open Letter to
                                                            s, councillors,
on September 26th, the Deputy Prime
                                             Get tenants rep

Minister, John Prescott, said:
“Public financing of housing doesn’t         “A PROMISE IS A P         TY                     PRIME MIN IST
                                                                                                           ER,            1 November
                                                                                                                                     20 04
                                                           TO THE DEPU
                                              O PEN LETTER
treat local authorities on a level playing                  scott,
field and I want to see that changed          Dear John Pre                                 on September
                                                                                                                  26th you said:
                                                                                                                                   “Public financin
                                                                                                                                  t to see that cha
                                                                                                                                                       g of housing
                                                                                                                                                       nged and I
                                                                  Party Conference level playing field and I wan                                                     eement”.
                                                                                                                                                  were “near agr
and I promised to do that and look at          At the Labour
                                                                       l authoriti   es on a
                                               doesn't treat loca and look at an enquiry into it”.
                                               promised       to do that                    the vote:
                                                                                                                     You told
                                                                                                           “We recognise
                                                                                                                               delegates you
                                                                                                                             yesterday's     vote and we will negotiation, a
                                                                                                                                          .We are    continuing a
                                                                                                                                                                 engage as a

an enquiry into it.”                           Your housing min
                                                result of that...W
                                                                         ister said after
                                                                                              the review as we
                                                                       e are continuing ed parties.”
                                                                                  ous interest
                                                                                                                       promised to do..

                                                                                                                                     sing by the Dep
                                                                                                                                                          uty Prime Ministe be
                                                discuss    ion, with the vari                                       for council hou                           country expect
                                                                                                 l playing field                          nts around the
                                                                          mitment to a leve iry, is a promise council tena
                                                   This public com                      of an inqu
                                                                             promise                                                                                       nce on
Now he is trying to get out of that              acc  ompanied by a
                                                                           r letter to Austin
                                                                                                Mitchell MP, deli
                                                                                                                                            the DCH    national confere
                                                                                                                       vered in time for lors, trade unionists and MP
                                                                                                                               local council                           mover of the
                                                                                                                                                                                    s from

                                                                                                            council tenants,                        ditional on the
commitment. Tell the Deputy Prime                   However in you
                                                  Octobe     r 29, attended
                                                  86 areas, you
                                                                                  by more than 350 in your letter was explicitly con
                                                                      say “The review withdraw”.                                                             ss was made on

Minister we expect him to keep his                                                                                                    significant progre
                                                                                            g to                                                                                  ditional
                                                                        ding... agreein                            we understand                             ent currently con
                                                   alternative wor                        to the conference                               itional investm                           the
                                                                    ions leading up                                 to access the add                         understand that
                                                     In discuss                                ing authorities                                  y. We also
promise.                                           issue of allowin
                                                    on  ALMOs - without
                                                                          g 'good' perform
                                                                                 the need for cou
                                                                              accepted the clea
                                                                                                         ncils to set up
                                                                                                       r financial evid
                                                                                                                          a private compan ted demonstrating that the
                                                                                                                         ence we have
                                                    Treasury broadly ncially viable.                                                                      commitment and
                                                                            fina                                                  agrees to provide                         h as voids,
                                                    'fourth option' is                                       r department also                          e on issues suc
                                                                                        forward. If you                            ther best practic                        access these
                                                               offers a clear way ment Task Force' - to bring toge                                       formance and
   Get tenants, trade unionists,                       This
                                                     for a 'Continuou
                                                      repairs and hou
                                                                             s Improve
                                                                             sing strategy -
                                                                                                it would help all
                                                                                                                       authorities imp
                                                                                                                                        rove their per

                                                                                                                                                             ence from the

  councillors and MPs to sign this                    fund  s.
                                                        The current gov
                                                                                ern  ment position
                                                                                                         is inconsis
                                                                                                    lic Accounts and
                                                                                                                      tent and flies in
                                                                                                                                         the face of evid
                                                                                                                                                  mittees, the Loc
                                                                                                                              PM Select Com unions and others. Privatisatio
                                                                                                                                                                       al Government
                                                                                                                                 up of MPs, trad                             insistence on
  open letter and tell Prescott ‘A                     Audit Office, the
                                                                               Commons Pub
                                                                   tion, House of
                                                                                       Commons Cou
                                                                                   is deeply unpopu
                                                                                                              ncil Housing gro
                                                                                                           lar and  there is no evid
                                                                                                                                       ence to suppor
                                                                                                                                                          t the dogmatic
                                                                                                                                                                                  ying council
  promise is a promise’. Cut or copy                   of council housing management from strategy.
                                                        separating hou
                                                                           nt Ministers hav
                                                                                                                       le emphasis on
                                                                                                                                           'choice in public
                                                                                                e put considerab tenants and get improvements
                                                                                                                                                               services'. Den
                                                                                                                                                                  to their homes

  the letter from this page or download                   Governme
                                                        tenants the righ
                                                         fails this test.
                                                                               t to cho  ose to remain
                                                                                                              as council

                                                                                                                               de - this is not
                                                                                                                                                 a procedural gam
                                                                                                                                                                        e. A promise is

                                                                                                            mitment you ma
  it from website (see below).                              We urge you to
                                                                                   stand by the com

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Email/Tel No
                                                          Yours sincerely,                                Organisation

   Also ask your MPs to support the                       Name

  motion in parliament: EDM 193
  ‘Future for Council Housing’.

   Defend Council Housing write PO Box 33519, London E2 9WW
  phone 020 7987 9989 email
        Put this up on your estate with tape or blu tac, do not flypost

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