Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Jeremy's Tactics

However imperfect Labour’s internal democratic procedures are, in the run up to the last General Election it adopted a promising set of National Policy Forum Reports which shaped its Election Manifesto. The problem is that it did not make any effective use of its programme either with its own members nor at the hustings. I summarized its programme (selectively?) in no less than 180 briefly presented points shown for access here.

Whilst many of the points were (a) generalisations and needed to have harder edges and (b) still had gaps despite their size and scope; there is only a very small handful which I feel that any of us should have had serious reservations about. Would it not, therefore, be helpful for the Labour Party to stress that (until specific items are subject to change via Party Conference) these points should stand and shape its parliamentary actions? I don’t see any problems in Jeremy Corbyn adopting such a stance. This can be done whilst still suggesting which areas need to be clarified, what needs to be added and where possible changes can be made (subject to Conference’s agreement).

This approach could be adopted in ways that would make it difficult for right-wing critics of Jeremy to create a groundswell of opposition within the Labour Party and it might help to reign in over-the top tactics from the hard left. Yet it could give us a clear opportunity for Labour to start out on a programme which gradually and realistically stood a chance of placing what many of the electorate could come to see as being acceptable and relevant moves onto our agenda.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Housing In Crisis

ILP Seminar at Leeds on 5 March, 2016 on “Housing In Crisis”. A Report.

These are notes I took from the day's talks and discussions, plus my own thoughts.

A. Dr Quinton Bradley – The Housing Crisis Weaponised.

The 'Housing and Planning Bill, 2015-16' is currently in its late stages in the Lords. See -

There will be no more affordable houses, instead houses for home ownership or privately rented.

With “affordable” legally set at £450,000 in London and £250,000 elsewhere.

There will only be “starter” houses by Local Authorities and public grants via Housing Associations.

Shared ownership” is stressed, which is a most unpopular form. But it is a main prospect by 2020. This gives a 25% share of the ownership, with a subsidised rent on the remainder. It puts the holder of the “remainder” in control to what is to be done within the property. This approach has led to crisis. From 2008, it moved many people into pure renting. It is also a transfer to people on higher incomes who are not in financial need.

40% of “rights to buy” end up in the private rented sector.

There is a forced sale of council houses in high value areas. In London Boroughs this is 90% of Council Houses. 2.5 million houses have been lost via “Right to Buy”.

See also

Only 7% of Council Tenants are either on or above £40,000 in London or on £30,000 elsewhere. There is an end of security for Council Tenants. New tenancies are limited to 5 years, but can be renewed, except where a partner has died and a smaller house is seen as being “needed”.

There is a right to buy for Housing Association Tenants, so the Association then needs to purchase and find a replacement.

Two and a half million Council Houses have been sold off.

In the Autumn Statement, housing benefit can only go to 30% of those who are on private sector rents.

There will be no more supported housing.

There will be reduced incomes to Housing Associations, so they will make cuts in their operations.

There will be a transfer of house building from areas of need to higher value areas.

There have been reductions in Housing Grants from the early 1990s.

In 2008 Labour's Caroline Flint ended secure tenancy for Council Tenants.

He mentioned what he called the 1972 Heath “Fair Rents Act” (This was the
Housing Finance Act” which Clay Cross rebelled against.).

In 1970 nationally there were 30% in Council Houses, this collapsed from 1983.

Yet there is a decent European-wide model. In 2011 they had the following Council Housing – Holland 35%, Austria (next or the same HB) ), Denmark 19%, Sweden 18%, UK 17%, USA 3%.

The EU anti-competition rule of 2010 hits Council Housing.

There is a rise in house prices due to the collapse of Council Housing.

There is also a decline in home ownership. In 2003 it was 71% and is 65.1% today. Many of the full owners are pensioners. The private sector rents have risen. There is a 40% increase in profits by Barratts, although they build less – concentrating on where they can make money.

B. Fabian Hamilton MP for Leeds North East – Building Homes For Britain.

He spoke to his publication entitled “Building Homes For Britain” (published November 2015). A summary can be found here -

The full report can be found via a link contained at the end of the above summary. I did not take notes from this session as I obtained a copy of the report, for which I have provided the above link. It is a very important document.

In answering points raised from the floor of the meeting Fabian Hamilton was supported by Simon Jose who had researched and edited the report.

I also decided I would subsequently re-examine the following link which contains points I had previously drawn from Labour's appropriate Policy Forum Report. Especially see points 4 to 8 on housing-

Debates on the current “Housing and Planning” Bill, with John Healy MP as Labour's spokesperson are also of relevance. Here is a repeat link which leads to these -.

C. Ellen Robottom of the Campaign for Decent, Secure and Affordable Housing.

This is her organisation's web-site which is entitled “Hands Off Our Homes - Leeds” It contains six important sections to link into.

Much as the organisation's considerable efforts have centred around giving advice and regular assistance over the impact of the Bedroom Tax which has effected 13,000 households in Leeds. Those effected are in more isolated areas than almost anywhere in the country, which has produced a range of mental and other diseases. Help has mainly been provided as a result of regular door-knocking activities. Many homes having been visited at least three times.

Case work covers many essential activities which should have been undertaken by the Council, but was not being covered by them.

Concern was expressed that at the key time when the Housing and Planning Bill was in front of the Commons, the media gave the issue little or no coverage. This was not helped by the fact that Labour was undertaking its headline grabbing Shadow Cabinet re-shuffle at this crucial time.

There is a considerable need to place developments around the Bill at the top of Labour's Agenda. There is a clear need for those of us who are active in the Labour Party to ensure that this matter is pushed to the top of Labour's agenda.

In my own case, my Constituency includes Clay Cross which was at the centre of the struggle against the Housing Finance Act back in 1972, see -

In fact the first item I ever wrote for the ILP was for “Labour Leader” on the issue of the Clay Cross struggle, which was still a major item then in October 1975. Even in 1977 and 1978 our Constituency Labour Party was still able to force the Clay Cross issue as a key item onto the Labour Party Conference Agenda.

It should also be noted that the one big success of the first minority Labour Government in 1924 was the housing legislation introduced by John Wheatly of the ILP.  It gave a considerable boost to the building of Council Housing which was picked up by Labour controlled Councils which were growing significantly in that period. We could do with that history repeating itself. See - (unfortunately this link needs to be pasted as it will not work for me as a direct link).

We and others now need to get the current situation to the top of Labour's agenda. The content of this ILP Day-School needs to stimulate us all into action. Let us get into a position where we can follow its lessons on such an important matter. 

Corrections from those who attended the Seminar are welcome. As are comments on where we go from here.