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COUNCIL HOUSING IN MANCHESTER HAS IT A FUTURE?

Margaret Manning,

 

Manchester Council is determined to sell off all its housing over the next year or two. They try and make out they have no choice and when outlining the possible options they only ever mention three PFI (Private Finance Initiative) which they have used in Ardwick, ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation) which they plan for all of North Manchester, and housing associations.

 

They never even mention that there could be a fourth option, i.e. staying with the council.  Under the Tory government Manchester tenants twice fought off the wholesale sale or transfer of their houses -remember the council's 'Homes for Life' campaign? Now the New Labour Government has decided they will pursue this Tory policy and Manchester New Labour council just decide to follow their political masters as if there was no alternative. There is no reason why the government cannot give the cash for improvements to councils, rather than just Housing Associations or other privatised organisations. Although Housing Associations are technically not for profit they often act like private companies and generally pay their top staff hugely inflated salaries.

 

Tenants in many areas, including Camden and Birmingham have voted to stay with the council. They are demanding the government fund improvements to their homes whilst retaining democratic control over the ownership. My union, the T&G, and others are also demanding that this fourth option is considered in all votes. Why is Manchester Council not telling tenants about this?  The situation facing areas where the houses have been sold off or transferred is not the glowing picture New Labour would have us believe. For example a Sunderland councillor indicated tenants have suffered a 17% rent rise after transfer and only 26 of the 4000 new homes promised have been built.

 

Transfers and sell offs affect the whole community not just existing tenants - many homeless young people and families will be denied the chance to safe, secure homes. Housing Associations generally do not offer emergency accommodation, or priority for those in great need e.g. fleeing domestic violence. Even when an organization takes over council housing and promises all sort of extra help this is only for a few years (so they get the ownership) and then they do what they like.      

                                                                                           

 

June 2005

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