Motion: Building more council houses

When are we going to wake up and do something about the lack of appropriate social housing?

When Margaret Thatcher came to power (1979) she was determined to sell off council housing. She saw council housing or state run housing as the enemy of the Tory party as she felt council tenants favoured the Labour party. If you lived in a council house for three years you were given the right to buy it (1980 The Right to Buy Housing Act). Over two million took this offer up, grants were given and at the end of it the councils only received a fraction of the selling price and were barred from spending all of this small amount on new housing. Even worse than that over 40% of the council houses that were bought were sold on to private landlords.

Hope was given to the homeless when the Labour government, under Toy Blair came to power (1997), to abolish or suspend the right to buy and to build more social housing. However this did not transpire the Labour government did not want to be seen as inspirational by building council houses.

A leading Tory figure once said “creating more council housing only creates Labour voters”, I think he was wrong.

Since the right to buy a stigma has been attached to council housing. This has obviously suited the Tory government, dismantling social or state housing and distributing it piece by piece to the private sector. It would also appear that it has suited some councils who are happy to sell off empty properties instead of fighting the government to change the law and keep the money from the selling of social housing and investing in new housing.

Selling off social housing is akin to selling off the railways, electricity, gas, water and anything else the government can sell to the private sector.

When generations of working class families were allocated a council house, it felt like utopia, secure housing, hot water, spacious rooms, inside bathrooms and sometimes a garden.

A century ago, a Liberal government passed The Addison Act, forcing every local authority to build council housing.

The glorious age of council house-building came after the Second World War when Clement Attlee’s Labour government built more than 800,000 new council homes.

In the UK today there is more than a million people on the housing list, with 120,000 children in temporary shelter.

We are the world’s fifth richest country, a Labour government after the Second World War, nearly bankrupt built 800,000 council houses, nationalisation also took place of key industries and most important of all the creating of a welfare state took place, creating the National Health Service. Yet today we cannot resolve a housing crisis.

I was lucky to watch a programme presented by George Clark, an architect doing a series on channel 4, celebrating the Centenary of the Addison Act. This was also highlighted by Brian Reade writing in the Daily Mirror. George Clark wants the Government to build 100,000 new council homes a year and suspend the Right to Buy. He believes that “everyone should have the option of a decent quality home to rent. If people are in stable homes with affordable rents then everything has a chance of falling into place.” The point being if you give people a good quality of life it may impact on cutting crime, social and health issues. We should get behind a campaign to support what George Clark is trying to achieve.

Of cause this could and should have a knock on effect to train youngsters in all aspect of the construction industry with apprenticeships and training. This will in turn open up colleges who will have to take on trainers and lecturers.

Were possible local authorities can then look at setting up Direct Labour Organisations, with new skilled labour coming along. Cutting out some of the cowboy builders and improving Health and Safety Standards.

Action Points

  1. That we start a campaign supporting George Clark’s aim to sustainably build 100,000 Council homes a year.
  2. That we support and campaign to end the Right to Buy Act, Housing and Planning Act 2017 and campaign to stop ownership of multiple ex-Council properties
  3. That we campaign for a Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) throughout the Council.
  4. That we take on apprentice’s in all fields of work directly and not through third parties.
  5. All apprentices or trainees are given correct training on appropriate contracts.
  6. We take on young adults with no qualifications, were appropriate for certain trades and farm them out to our contractors for training until DLO’s are established.
  7. That an independent training section is established, to take on apprentices, trainees and staff training at all levels, within the Equality and Diversity guide lines.
  8. That the same training section establish meaningful communications with career teachers at schools and colleges within Lambeth.

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