Supplementary Memorandum by Defend Council
Housing (DEC 40(a))
These are more examples from around the country
of the blackmail, bullying and threats that council tenants face.
We want real choicethe choice of staying as council tenants
in decent, affordable, secure and accountable housing.
Here in Stroud we are all a bit stunned
by the result [Stroud tenants last week voted No to stock transfer].
Now the council are talking about a re-ballot in six months, but
also possibly ALMO. Please tell the ODPM select committee that
tenants are not making knee-jerk choices, they are voting to stay
with councils who they want as their landlords because they trust
them and value the relationship. If this is a democracy, the government
needs to listen and to allow those councils whose tenants vote
to stay with them to operate under the same conditions as other
social landlords. If they level the funding conditions so that
councils aren't penalised as landlords we might see a reversal
in the catastrophic decline in new build in social housing.
Alison Hustwitt, Stroud tenant
Repairs or decent homes?
Birmingham is a very damning case for
government policy on council housing and decent homes. In the
largest council in Britain, tenants voted by 2 to 1 last year
to reject stock transfer. This should have been the cue to invest
in a modernised, first class housing service, using all the funds
available including those offered by government to subsidise the
stock transfer. But instead democracy is ignored, and the council
brings in "experts" such as Anne Power to advise on
splitting Birmingham tenants into "bite size chunks"
(as Council leader Albert Bore called it), with local stock transfers
and ALMOs. How is this "tenants" choice'?
Meanwhile, the Audit Commission has demanded
action on the shocking repairs backlog, the result of underinvestment,
neglect and siphoning off of our money.
Birmingham Council is to pay for the clearance
of its repairs backlog with money originally allocated to meeting
the decent homes standard and demolishing unsustainable stock.
The routine repairs budget will be increased
from £12 million to £23.7 million to fulfil the council's
promise to clear the backlog of 49,000 repairs by the end of March.
The promise was made after the council was awarded no stars for
its repairs and maintenance service by the housing inspectorate
(Inside Housing, 19 September).
Additional funding of £6.4 million had
already been identified in the summer, but the new figure includes
taking £3.7 million from the total that would have been spent
this financial year on work to bring homes up to the decency standard.
A further £1.6 million will come from funds
allocated for stock clearance before April. The council has also
negotiated cheaper rates with repairs contractors because of the
efficiency savings from the volume of work to be done.'
[from Inside Housing 11.12.03]
This is evidence that the decent homes target
contributes to neglect of tenants' homes!
Birmingham Council is still aiming to pull down
a whole area (Newtown North) of housing less than 30 years old.
The area has been deliberately neglected and now the council wants
to pull it down and sell off the (very valuable) land, despite
the high housing waiting lists.
They will have to spend £3 million on home
loss payments alone, on top of costs for demolition and all the
other upheaval affecting schools, doctors, shops etc.
We said NO to stock transferand here
they are doing it anyway by the back door.
Where is Birmingham tenants' choice? We want
decent council housingwhy should we have to choose between
"decent" and "council'? We are proud to be council
tenants. We would ask the ODPM select committee to publicly challenge
the government to honour our right to choose to stay as council
tenants and get our homes repaired and modernised.
Frank Chance, Birmingham council tenant
"Here are the potential options that the
Council will consider, should there be a "No" vote.
In the Short Term (1 to 2 Years) . . . An immediate
reduction in the number of capital improvements . . . disabled
persons adaptations may need to be reduced . . . certain repairs
may not be carried out . . . charges for services could be increased,
such as Care Link, caretaker services, lifts and elderly persons
services . . .
In the Medium Term (3 to 5 Years) . . . Homes
will fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard . . . The Improvement
Programme could be reduced even further, which may mean less jobs
for local people . . . Properties may be left empty, increasing
the potential for vandalism and destruction . . . It is for tenants
to decide . . . '
[from Wakefield Council website 15.12.03]
"If transfer does not go ahead . . . this
would mean looking at: closure of local area offices, reduced
spending on repairs, reduced staffing within housing, reduction
of customer access points, reduction in overall levels of services
. . . staying with they Council would not mean that things would
stay the same, they would get worse."
[draft for North East Lincoinshire housing newsletter
In the first two neighbourhood CONmissions in
Sheffield a few tenants' reps were asked to decide for
EVERY tenant what their "preferred option" was. Then
when the select few (6 or 7) have made that decisionwhich
is invariably ALMOthe poor tenants get "Hobsons choice"
of yes or no to ALMO?
We on Shirecliffe did a 100% survey of tenants
giving them all 3 choices plus a fourth: "I do not have enough
information to make a choice" and were initially refused
the cash we paid for the ballot. That is until the rest of our
commission backed us . . . the draft ALMO bid for where I live
claims demand for council housing is "low"though
figures show waiting lists for all areas, and around 6,000 homeless
Hardly a case of council housing readily available!!
Brian Wilson, tenant
In the London borough of Southwark, there
are more examples of tenants who have rejected stock transfer
and stated their priorities, which are being ignored in the drive
On the Aylesbury estate, regardless of a massive
ie 73% NO vote on a 76% response rate just two years ago, the
Aylesbury New Deal for Communities (ANDC) is pushing through an
ALMO, regardless of the evidence which tenants have gathered that
we do not need their elaborate "improvements". The tenants
specify regular maintenance and painting of exteriors as a priority
in contrast to the ANDC proposals to demolish walkways (which
children play on without risk of road traffic accidents), built
unnecessary roads which will become rat runs through the estate
and a penthouse on top of a block which was originally scheduled
fordemolition. The dishonesty of these proposals is the ALMO which
is being described as improvements not mentioning the changes
in tenancy. All planned to begin in 2004 and no ballot.
Margot, angry tenant of 20 yrs
(writing in private capacity but I am secretary of my local T&RA
so I am not a passive complainer)
On Southwark's East Dulwich Estate it is planned
that 15% of the estate, 107 homes, will be demolished in favour
primarily of luxury private flats. There is insufficient local
authority housing stock remaining on the estate, so secure tenants
will be forced, in many cases against their will, to accept assured
tenancies from an RSL. We are told that if necessary the council
will seek to strip us of our tenancies through the courts.
According to a survey commissioned by Southwark
last year not one of the blocks on the estate was in need of any
major works. It concluded that "unfortunately" the surveys
do not point to any of the blocks being in such a structural condition
to warrant demolition. The London County Council built the estate,
constructed between 1933-1936, to an exceptional standard. It
requires only a relatively small amount of money to bring it all
up to the "decent homes" standard.
A recent ballot of residents conducted by the
Electoral Reform Society clearly indicated by a ratio of over
2:1 that residents are opposed to the council plans for the estate.
A result that the leader of the council has stated that he will
The East Dulwich Estate is not a run down and
neglected estate that tenants are desperate to leave. We have
a sustainable community. We enjoy comfortable and secure homes.
Crime on the estate is extremely low. The estate is well served
by public transport and amenities such as schools and leisure
facilities. The estate provides affordable homes in an otherwise
We have looked in every direction for protection
against the Southwark's plans to take our homes. To date no one
who can help will help. We have therefore been forced into drastic
action. A complaint has been made to the District Auditor that
the council is acting unlawfully. We have been told that we must
accept demolitions on the estate in order to comply with Capital
Finance Regulations. However when closely inspected the regulation
used clearly states that our properties must be vacant or unused
or underused or ineffectively used or contaminated or derelict.
Southwark plans to evict existing tenants from
their homes and then claim the properties are vacant. We believe
that this is unlawful. The District Auditor has referred the complaint
to the Audit Commission. If our complaint is upheld, many, many
thousands of tenants across the borough may have been unlawfully
evicted from their homes.
We are also poised to begin judicial review
proceedings in the High Court. There are likely to be a number
of multi-party actions again Southwark in relation to the demolition
and land sales, the consultation, which we believe has been neither
full nor open, and breaches of Article 8 rights.
We also intend to test the right of Southwark
to involuntarily remove secure tenancies, referred to in the Tenants'
Charter as "a home for life".
Steve Hedger Chair, East Duiwich Estate Tenants
& Residents Association
In Cherwell DC the tenants and Councillors
were told that the Council did not have enough resources to meet
the decent homes standard. It was only after this was challenged
by UNISON that the officers admitted that the standard could be
met from Council resources. Then the propaganda changed to meeting
a "good standard" but the damage was done. The tenant
adviser also repeated this lie.
Another big lie was that the Council would build
600 new affordable homes by 2006 with the proceeds of the LSVT.
This was a complete fantasy as the local plan does not provide
for this in land terms. The officers who had stated this then
had to say that that was their "target"but they
still went on repeating it in the propaganda. The tenants and
the workforce were threatened by the Council that if there was
a no vote housing management would be outsourced (the innuendo
was that it would be to a hated local housing associationthe
subject of an earlier partial LSVT) and that a trickle transfer
would take place.
The Council's Chief Executive was quite open
about how the motivation was to get the capital receipt to bale
out the Council's finances and it was made a top priority for
Council staff as the only way to avoid redundancies.
Luton is at the moment going for stock options
Difficulties for tenants that Head of Housing
wants to try and run it for the council and select the tenants
friend. Also where councils are looking for more long term maintenance
programmes the day to day repairs are failing through lack of
money, which means this could push the tenants to agree on LSVT.
If the government really wants tenants to be
empowered then let's have it in legislation. Government says this
in all its paperwork i.e. empowerment, yet officers will continue
to walk all over tenants if this is not cast in stone.
Linda Mitchell, Luton Tenants Consultative Committee
Government Office North East and the Community
Housing Task Force failed to ensure the rights of North Tyneside
tenants were protected. We complained that both these agencies
ignore the requirements for a proper tenant empowered strategy
and a mechanism for consultation . . . ODMP . . . are there to
sell the Government's Policy and even though you have support
of MPs and tenants are saying No, ultimately Prescott is forcing
Councils through financial constraints to opt for stock disposal.
Terry Harding, North Tyneside Tenant
In Swindon, which is supposedly one of
the richest places outside of the big cities, house prices are
way outside the range of ordinary people. Yet effectively there
is a ban on council house building. That is why the council house
waiting list is still climbingnow over 5,700.
There is a housing crisis in the town. The proposed
changes to the Wiltshire and Swindon Plan up to 2016 seek to impose
26,000 new houses on the town, but with no prospect of any "affordable
ones" (save 50 a year!).
The unions need to demand an end to it and the
provision of money to build on a large scale. I know, realistically,
this government is not going to provide this, but the argument
in relation to a council house building programme to address the
housing crisis does not appear to be pushed onto the front of
the agenda. It needs to be.
Martin Wicks, Secretary Swindon TUC