A fantastic response
1800 tenants and trade unionists came to Parliament on January 29 2003 to lobby their MPs.
The rally at Central Hall Westminster was one of the biggest mobilisations of council tenants in more than a decade.
Delegations attended from 67 areas and many met their MPs to put the campaign firmly on the map.
What some of the speakers said...
Austin Mitchell MP
'this campaign is spreading. It's bringing in more support - from unions,
tenants and councillors. We want a mass campaign all over the country.
Stop this campaign of transfer to the private sector, to get rid of council
housing. It's a national asset, let's keep it for the people and improve it.
That's what this is about.'
Alan Walter DCH
Let's take our six demands, get MPs to support them by signing EDM 116.
Take these to our areas, and say to our councillors 'decide which side you're
on'. If you're for council housing, adopt the six demands of this lobby as
formal council policy and support the campaign.
'There's plenty of money for glossy PR campaigns and money to subsidise
privatisation - £800 million budgeted for all those who transfer in 2003.
This is not a financial problem - it's a political problem about government,
MPs and councillors being committed to fight for council housing.'
Jack Dromey, T&GWU national organiser
What they want to do is privatise the great bulk of the nation's housing stock. It's absolutely unacceptable and it's not in the public interest. It's wrong because tenants do not have a real choice - though they've voted time and again to stay with the council.
'Direct Labour Organisations are excellent training facilities, where the next generation of skilled workers are being trained. If there's mass privatisation of housing stock the finest training in DLOs will be a casualty too.
'So sod the council - come and visit T&G members in the depots. We'll meet together as tenants and trade unions, and we'll win.'
Gerald Kaufman MP
'Housing associations are completely non-accountable. There is some accountability in theory but when it comes to practise they do what they want. Local authority housing departments are not perfect by any manner of means but they are accountable - you, tenants, councillors can force them to respond.
'Let's be determined about it. Let's keep this going. Let's make the government listen. This government can do the job if we who are its supporters make clear that this is what we demand of them. Let's protect and save council housing.'
Pat Maddox, Liverpool tenants federation
Pat Maddox, Liverpool tenants federation
'For 20 years many of us in this hall have been involved in this campaign. We've had bitter fights and it's taken its toll.
'In Sefton Park, the most prestigious part of the city, flats cost £500,000. Yet on the other side of the road they evaluated good quality council flats at £47.05. Ordinary people are being priced out of their communities. There needs to be a refocus back on the effect on ordinary people, and less on property developers and the economics of fat cat luxury apartment buildings.'
Andrew Bennett MP
'Just as the private landlords saw 100 years ago how they could rip tenants off, so we've seen a whole group of people move into housing with what I can only describe as sticky fingers. Lots of the housing associations when they were set up were nice little earners for the accountants, solicitors and others who established them. Yes they were regulated, but an awful lot of people made a profit out of housing associations.
'And the newest way that people can make a profit out of housing is the so-called stock transfer. See how much money has been going to consultants and others to try and persuade people to vote 'yes'.
'I don't intend to stand idly by now. Let's make sure we win this campaign and in the short term, we get a 'no' vote in Stockport.'
Frances O'Grady deputy general secretary-elect, TUC
'The TUC wants to see a level playing field for housing investment. Sadly the Local Government Bill will encourage precisely the opposite. Councils that transfer their stock will have debts wiped out. Councils that do not transfer will continue to service their housing debt.
'Good quality housing is central to ensuring a decent quality of life. Government must deal with the backlog in all public housing repairs, much sooner than 2010. There are twice as many families live in council housing as in housing association housing. So it's pretty obvious that to solve the problem the government has got to invest in council housing.
Moira Hood, Doncaster Tenants Federation
'We seem to have swapped one anti-council house government for another. It seems a shame that people in this country can't recognise what an asset council housing is and look after it.
'In Doncaster we have got in the consultants - Hacas Chapman Hendy in our case. They seem to be very busy. They're the only people getting rich out of all this as far as I can see, are the consultants.'
Frank Chance, Birmingham Defend Council Housing campaign
'We have had unselfish and unstinting support from the trade unions. We got out on the estates and on the streets and we talked to the tenants and residents, sometimes in twos and threes. We had support from some councillors and some MPs.
'It was a tenants' movement, and it still is. The way to win this campaign is to get among your people. Talk to them, get support from your unions and tell them the real facts.
'Let's have the money for housing, let's have the money for schools, and let's get the welfare state back on its feet.'
Lynne Jones MP
'I was glad to expose the unfairness of a Labour government prepared to put money into housing if tenants voted for transfer but not if tenants wanted to remain with the council.
'How does the deputy prime minister justify the fact that in six years of a Labour government Birmingham City Council has on been allocated on average an extra £8.6 million a year in housing investment, over what the Tories allocated in the six years up to 1997?
'We should have the council and tenants fighting together to get decent housing and this government putting investment in housing. That's what we're here for today.'
Mick Graham, GMB national secretary
'We fully support the campaign to get decent, affordable, secure and accountable housing in this country. We are proud to link up with tenants' associations, with other unions, and with politicians to fight to promote decent quality housing.
'After years and years of Tory cuts we got the new Labour government and we were promised everything would change. John Prescott and this government have got rid of more houses away from direct local government control than Thatcher ever did under the right to buy. That is an absolute disgrace.
Delegations came from:
Amesham, Banbury, Barking & Dagenham, Barnet, Bassetlaw, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Bolsover, Bracknell, Braintree, Brent, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Camden, Cardiff, Colchester, Coventry, Crewe, Deal, Doncaster, Dover, Dudley, Ealing, Easington, Epping, Gateshead, Gloucester, Grimsby, Hackney, Halton, Haringey, Harlow, Hull, Islington, Lambeth, Leeds, Leicester, Lewisham, Liverpool, Manchester, Mansfield, Middlesborough, Milton Keynes, Newark, Newcastle, Newham, Nottingham, Nuneaton & Bedworth, Peterborough, Plymouth, Pontefract, Reading, Rotherham, Sandwell, Sheffield, Solihull, Southwark, Stevenage, Stockport, Stoke, Stroud, Tower Hamlets, Wakefield, Wirral, Wolverhampton, Worcester
do you know of any others?
Sponsors included tenants federations in Camden, Doncaster, Holton, Hull, Liverpool, Newcastle, Reading, Southwark, Stevenage, Stockport, Wakefield, Waveney, Wirral along
with the unions UNISON, GMB, UCATT, TGWU and RMT.
sheet and get local councillors (as well as tenants and trade union reps) to support
the six demands behind the lobby to increase pressure on Ministers.
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