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The rights of council tenants must be defended

The Housing and Planning Act received Royal Assent and came into law back in May. It was presented by the Government as legislation intended to “make provision about housing, estate agents, rent charges, planning and compulsory purchase” but other clauses within it have sparked widespread controversy and criticism...

Under the Act, most new local authority tenancies will be on a fixed-term basis – from two to 10 years – a regulation that will also apply to many ‘succession’ tenancies as well. The bill also outlined a policy known as ‘pay-to-stay’ a clause that would significantly increase household costs for many tenants.

‘Pay-to-stay’, as it had been dubbed by campaigners, would have obliged local authority tenants with a household income above £40,000 within London (£30,000 outside) to pay an extra 15p for each pound over that benchmark.

This particular aspect was highlighted in discussion at a recent meeting of Kingston and Surbiton Labour Party, this clause of the Act which was scheduled for introduction next year, would have been no more than a direct attack on working people in council tenancies.

After coming under enormous pressure on this issue on Monday the 21st November the Government caved in and announced a major u-turn by saying they would not introduce this particular aspect of the Act. This shows two things: firstly that despite their majority in parliament this government is exposed to public opinion turning against them: and, secondly, it shows that campaigning and protesting can work, despite what some may say to the contrary.

However Kingston and Surbiton Labour party opposes the entire Housing and Planning act, because it does nothing to tackle the growing housing crisis in the local area or across the country.

Kingston and Surbiton Labour Party strongly supports the position of the Labour Party nationally in promising to abolish the Housing and Planning Act if it wins the next election.

The UK’s chronic housing crisis has been mostly caused by failure to build council houses. Estimates by housing experts are that between 232,000 to 300,000 new homes every year are needed to adequately address current levels of need.

But the response to the crisis from this Government – and from successive governments – has been lamentable. Local authorities used to build council housing, but this has all but stopped and now, new homes are more likely to be built by housing associations.

But a significant source of new-build funding used by housing associations – capital subsidy from government – has also recently been cut by more than £8 billion. This is a political decision that further exacerbates the crisis we face.

As Kingston and Surbiton CLP Executive Committee member Tony Kearns says, "This is not everybody being in this together. Working harder for the noble ideal of bettering oneself clearly comes with a heavy cost to pay if you happen to be a council tenant".

It is a simple fact that the Tory Governments Housing and planning Act will make the housing crisis worse. It would:-

  • Force up some council rents by 15%
  • Lose around 350,000 social rented homes by 2020
  • End permanent tenancy council tenants
  • Push million of people into private renting with no rent control or security
  • Lead to huge profits for private developers at the expense of council tenants
  • Break up traditional communities

Kingston and Surbiton Labour party stands squarely with those whose future housing needs are threatened by a government that is out of touch with the needs of ordinary people.

The government rushed through this Act in May this year because it simply wanted to pretend it was “doing something” in the run up to the EU referendum vote. As a result the bill is a mess and it needs to go.We need to pressure the Government to ensure this vindictive Act is not implemented.

What we need is a clear alternative.We need a proper strategy on housing. Such a strategy, would embrace the following:-

  • Repeal the Housing & Planning Act 2016.
  • Regulation of private renting to include controlled rents, secure tenancies and an end to no-fault and retaliatory evictions.
  • Invest in council housing– remove the artificial debt burden and free councils to develop secure homes at social rent
  • A moratorium on estate demolition– existing homes should be modernised and made energy-efficient
  • Councils’ housing plans and targets must match local need for really-affordable homes for rent
  • Suspend the Right to Buy
  • Only classifying housing as ‘affordable’ if housing costs amount to less than one third of net disposable income
  • Subjecting Housing Associations to democratic oversight and regulation
  • Genuine involvement of tenant and resident organisations and those in housing need, with support to encourage real participation in decision making
  • Restoring full local, democratic and transparent planning powers
  • Publishing full details of viability assessments for all developments
  • Including at least 50% really-affordable housing for rent in all new housing developments
  • Using publicly owned land for housing to provide 100% publicly-owned, really-affordable homes

We will be campaigning on this issue throughout the borough including a lobby outside of the tenants meeting at Piper Hall, Piper Road, Kingston, KT1 3EX at 19.00 on Tuesday the 29th November.  

Kingston and Labour Party Executive Committee 

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