[First published on our website: December 2006]
Brighton & Hove city council has over the past three years fought a bitter and dirty battle to try and con the council tenants of Brighton & Hove into voting for a sell-off of their council homes to a privately-run housing association.
The council has tried to persuade tenants to agree to a stock transfer of Brighton & Hove's 13,500 council houses and sheltered homes as the only way that much needed repairs and investment can take place. Yet what they do not say is that the quality of housing has been purposefully run down by successive councils who have siphoned off tenants' rents to fill holes elsewhere in their mis-managed budget. In fact, nationally there is a surplus of £2 billion per year from council rents, which would easily cover all the necessary council house repairs in the country!
The government has stated that all councils in the UK must seek to move the control of their housing stock into private hands, in order that funds are released and in order to carry out improvements. What they haven't said is that this money isn't guaranteed and that the new owners will have to try and raise it themselves first, which will inevitably lead to rent rises, as has happened in the majority of local authorities who have already been through the transfer process.
Housing associations do not offer a safe future for council tenants. The facts show that they provide less secure tenancies, are liable to suffer financial difficulties and takeovers, and fail to deliver the promises made to tenants. Brighton & Hove council know this too and so have tried the hard sell technique to persuade tenants. They have even installed their own stooges at the head of the supposedly independent Tenant Participation Advisory Service!
What's more, the council has spent over £2 million on the transfer process, including £850,000 on their propaganda and £33,000 on a fancy DVD. Just think what improvements that money could have paid for!
But these gimmicks aren't fooling anyone. The truth is that moving from the council as a landlord to a private company means increased rents, less secure tenancies, no guarantee that the repairs promised will be done and the loss of democracy. At least with the council, no matter how bad they were, you could still vote them out!
The Socialist Party opposes this privatisation of public housing and has joined forces with the national Defend Council Housing (DCH) organisation to campaign for a NO vote in the forthcoming ballot of council tenants within Brighton & Hove.
During the last round of ballots, the NO votes have been increasing in number, by so much that most ballots are rejecting privatisation. In Tower Hamlets and Crawley, the councils have even abandoned their ballots knowing they can't win!
The privatisation of council housing is just the latest in the long line of public assets flogged off by the Labour government to private companies.
Remember - A NO vote is a vote against privatisation and a vote for the Forth Option - the increase of investment in decent quality, affordable, democratically-run public housing