Labour should end Right to Buy

February 12, 2018

During his first leadership election Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed by Red Brick, the blog of London Labour Housing Group. He was asked about the issue of Right to Buy (RTB). He responded that he would vote against the extension of RTB to housing associations and was personally in favour of “ending RTB, full stop”.

However, such was the symbolic importance of RTB in relation to New Labour that even Jeremy’s campaign team was hesitant about crossing this particular Rubicon and calling for an end to RTB sales. His campaign document “Tackling the Housing Crisis” spoke instead of “reducing the harm it causes to our affordable housing stock”. It proposed giving local authorities the power (though only in “areas of high housing stress”) to suspend RTB in order to protect “depleting social housing assets”. We know there was a discussion in the campaign team though we don’t know the detail. Undoubtedly there were fears that ending RTB would be denounced by his opponent as left wing lunacy. Small c conservatism won the day. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Labour’s Housing policy shifting leftwards?

February 8, 2018

Is Labour’s housing policy shifting leftwards? It’s official policy of suspending Right to Buy (RTB) sales was introduced by Teresa Pearce1 when she was temporarily Shadow Housing Minister. This was after John Healey had participated in the coordinated resignations of Shadow Cabinet members aimed at forcing Jeremy Corbyn to resign. Pearce had said that the policy “could only make sense in a time of surplus, in a time of shortage it makes no sense at all”. It didn’t go as far as we would like. We believe RTB should be ended as in Scotland and Wales. However, the new policy did at least mark a step away from New Labour’s craven support for RTB.

When this attempt to force Corbyn out failed and he won the second Leadership contest John Healey, somewhat magnanimously was invited back as Shadow Housing Minister.

In March of last year I wrote to John Healey on behalf of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group when Housing Minister Gavin Barwell made a statement about RTB. He said that the policy was only “politically justifiable” if homes sold are replaced by new homes built. Here was the political equivalent of an open goal but John Healey ignore it. We suggested that Barwell’s statement was an opportunity for him to demand that the Minister suspend RTB given the fact that homes were not being replaced. Alas, we did not get a response to our suggestion from Mr Healey. We did eventually get confirmation from his office that the policy of suspending RTB still remained in place. Yet nothing was done to campaign for it. It remained a policy on paper only. Given John Healey’s well known support for RTB we suspected that he was on strike against implementing the policy. Read on below or download a PDF here healeyland Read the rest of this entry »


Councils need government grant to fund large scale council house building programme

January 28, 2018

This is an article published on the Labour Briefing website

 

Raising the ‘borrowing cap’ is not a solution to the council housing shortage

There has been much talk of late about councils being able to “ borrow to build” new council housing. They are each currently subject to a borrowing cap/limit. Calls for raising the cap or ending it are based on the premise that this would enable councils to significantly increase council house building. Shadow Housing Minister John Healey recently suggested that lifting the cap would enable councils to build “tens of thousands” of new council homes, though he offered no evidence.
It’s the contention of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group that the funding crisis which local authority Housing Revenue Accounts (HRAs) suffer precludes building again on a large scale by means of taking on more debt. To test out this view we have analysed government data on local authority HRAs. What we found undermines the idea that more borrowing can open the way to re-launching a large scale council house building programme.

Read the rest of this entry »


“A radical programme of action”

October 10, 2017

This is an article published in the Morning Star on October 10th 2017

Jeremy Corbyn’s conference announcement that Labour would be carrying out a review “of social housing policy – its building, planning, regulation and management” is very welcome. So is his comment that “Labour would speak to social housing tenants all over the country” and bring forward “a radical programme of action” in time for next year’s Labour conference. However, one critical issue needs adding – funding.

The review gives tenants and supporters of council housing the opportunity to tell Labour what we think would constitute “a radical programme of action”. It suggests that Corbyn recognises the need to go beyond the Manifesto which was still rooted in New Labour’s housing policy. For instance, Labour’s “first priority” was not a council house building programme but helping first time buyers onto the proverbial housing ladder.

Whilst Jeremy had spoken of 100,000 council homes a year this was watered down to 100,000 ““affordable homes” for “rent and sale” by the end of the Parliament, with no indication of the proportion of each. Read on below or download a PDF here radicalpoa Read the rest of this entry »


The local government funding crisis and how to resolve it

November 11, 2016

With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader for the second time we have been told that this has consolidated Labour as the “anti-austerity party”. Whilst this is certainly the aspiration of Jeremy and his supporters Labour can only be judged on what it does not just what it says. The election of a left wing leader cannot transform the Labour Party in and of itself. Many of the old guard whose politics are rooted in those of New Labour are still entrenched. After the Parliamentary Party Labour councillors were the section of the party where support for Corbyn was at its lowest and resistance to a break from the politics of New Labour at its highest. Labour in office in local government is anything but an anti-austerity party. Nationally Labour has, as yet, made no attempt to build a movement against the government’s austerity programme. It has not even attempted to assemble its local authorities to discuss organising resistance to central government’s assault on local government. Each authority is therefore left to its own devices to attempt at best to manoeuvre in the face of unprecedented cuts or at worst to simply administer them without question. We therefore see the spectacle of Labour authorities cutting services, closing Libraries, outsourcing leisure services, and in some areas attacking the wages and conditions of staff. In Derby and Durham they are cutting the wages of low paid teaching assistants, precipitating strike action by a group workers who have no history of militancy. In Durham a Labour council is proposing to issue redundancy notices aimed at forcing staff to sign up to new contracts which involve as much as a 23% cut in wages1. (Read on below or download a PDF here localgovfundingcrisis ) Read the rest of this entry »


An attempted coup against the members

July 1, 2016

At the time of writing Angela Eagle has very generously paused her leadership campaign to give Jeremy Corbyn more time to resign. The real reason, however, is that Corbyn’s opponents are so well organised that they can’t yet agree on a single candidate to stand against him. It appears Owen Smith has collected sufficient nominations to stand. Some MPs are reportedly concerned that Smith would have a better chance of beating Corbyn than Eagle as he is ‘further to the left than her’. With the Chilcott report due out soon she will not be covered in glory. She, of course, voted for the war on Iraq.

Speaking on Radio 4 the Vice Chair of Angela Eagle’s Wallasey constituency party said that if the MPs wanted to remove Corbyn they could have simply raised the 51 nominations for a challenger. It says much of the approach of her and other PLP members that they didn’t bother consulting their local parties. Indeed Wallasey CLP asked her to vote against the no-confidence motion. Never mind they are the just the people who do the work. (Read on below or download a PDF here labourcoup) Read the rest of this entry »


Labour should oppose parishes move and demand referendum

October 19, 2015

Just when I was thinking that’s a good letter from Des Moffatt (“Beware Parish Plan”) he said this: “…I am not necessarily against going this way provided the citizens of Swindon know what is involved and the opportunity for well off areas to pull up the ladder is avoided.”

This unfortunate statement contradicts the logic of the arguments by which Des himself explained why it would not be a good idea.

Given the fact that the proposal is being put forward by the Conservative administration in the context of an austerity programme which is about to be reinforced by the government’s Spending Review there can only be one outcome to its implementation: the decimation of services and the reinforcement of inequalities based on the different Council tax levels in different wards. Read the rest of this entry »


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