Tuesday, 14 November 2006

SSP lead debate on housing stock transfer

The SSP used it's limited debating time in the Parliament to initiate a debate on housing stock transfer. Frances Curran opened the debate whilst I closed it for the SSP - the full debate can be seen at http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?title=General%20Debates&section=31 whilst my notes for my speech are copied below:

Housing Stock Transfer
1. S S Party is proud to initiate this debate and hold the SE to account.
Housing stock transfer is this Executives flagship housing policy
- a flagship which is holed below the waterline.
It is Labour’s Poll tax in as much as they are absolutely wedded to it and are losing huge respect in not recognising the need now to abandon it.

SSP utterly opposed to stock transfer. We believe that only a programme of publicly owned social housing can ensure everyone gets to live in house fit for the 21st century.

2. Average cost of a new home at £130,000 leaves huge numbers of population behind and unable to buy. Chronic shortage of quality, affordable homes; for rent, publicly owned and democratically controlled and managed.

3. Stock Transfer Policy of Executive
Like Mrs Thatcher before them SE say there is no alternative to stock being transferred out of public sector.
SFHA Briefing claims ‘opposition to stock transfer is ideologically driven’ An astonishing point to make, blind as they are, to the clear ideological reasons behind stock transfer itself the Treasury rules.

Quote Malcolm Chisholm
‘It is a fantasy to think the Treasury will step in and write off Council housing debt without new landlords taking over the stock.’
Whom did he have in mind with this rebuke I wonder?
Could it have been his own LP Conference, which this year which voted by more than two to one for just such an option/ ‘fantasy’?
I am old enough, as is Malcolm Chisholm, to remember when decisions at LP conference meant something. It is sad to see a once great democratic organisation reduced to this where decisions are completely ignored by party leaders.

But lets be clear this is an utterly remarkable quote – divulges an ideological pigheadedness – not dispute that the money is available for housing, but it is only available if you do as we want and accept privatisation.

It is remarkable then that tenants in Edinburgh, Stirling and Renfrewshire, not to mention Tower Hamlets, Cannock, Mid Devon, Birmingham, Sefton and countless other places across UK have soundly rejected the blackmail and stood up to it and said ‘you are not on’.

And what notice does MR Chisholm take of their decisions?
Does he feel bound to accept the wishes of the people? Not a bit of it.

‘Community ownership’
Malcolm Chisholm insults our intelligence again in this debate, dressing up stock transfer as a step up from public ownership, rather than the quite transparent abandonment of public ownership from a party who don’t support it anyway– baloney.

Currently our houses are publicly owned and yet he counterposes this with the Saatchi and Saatchi management speak phrase ‘community ownership’ as if it was a step forward. It is cynical and deceitful.

4. The Glasgow experience – where it all went wrong
In 2002 80,600 houses were transferred from Glasgow City Council to GHA for £1 and £1bn of debt was written off.
Amid promises of much needed repairs being done and 3,000 new homes built.
The famous Blairtummock semi detached house featured in much of the glossy promotional material promised to all tenants.
Well its Nov 2006 and not one single house has been built by GHA. Not one single brick laid.
10,000 houses demolished and further 40,000 ‘considered for demolition’.

GHA got £1bn debt write off and 80,600 houses for £1 and still couldn’t make a go of it.
They got £300m more when their business plan fell short and another £400m for demolition plans and now are after another £507m for Second stage transfer [SST].

Promises of ‘Tenants control’
What an insult and at variance with the facts. The original tenants representatives on the GHA -Billy McAllister and Colin Deans- were sacked from the board for trying to represent tenants interests.
Salary of chief executive Michael Lennon paid £204,000 an insult to tenants who pay and pay rent for little reward to see £4,000 per week going to him. That’s twice what the ‘poor’ minister gets!
Perhaps SFHA like to reflect on this when they claim that ‘every penny made by housing associations gets ploughed back into serving tenants’.

GHA is widely considered to be a highly centralised corporate organisation.
- complaints about salary to Michael Lennon,
-complaints at amounts paid out to consultants,
-complaints at amounts paid to advertise benefits of being a GHA tenant,
-complaints at the complete lack of accountability of GHA , a body paid again and again out of public funds.

Consider what Glasgow Council could have invested in housing if debt had been written off for them. Comparison done by Director of Housing and Finance against the £160m GHA invested in the same period of time.
GHA £160m per year vs Glasgow Council
£93.9m available from debt w/off
£45.4m repairs spend as is
£78.1m from capital spend
£19m additional spend from central heating grants etc
Total £236m to invest in repairs and new stock .
In other words 50% higher than GHA!

GHA should be overhauled and restructured with an inbuilt tenant majority and over time the stock handed back to the Council to resume strategic responsibility for public sector housing in the city.

5 Why the repeated NO votes?
a. Glasgow experience a poorer deal for tenants and widely seen.
Not the fault of local managers and local tenants organisations but GHA itself and failure to deliver on promises made to people.
b. Privatisation is what it is and people know it.
c. Effective local campaigns which incidentally to their immense credit overcame the huge inequity of resources to achieve victories each time.
-Something deeply invidious and thoroughly undemocratic about Councils spending millions of pounds of tenants money trying to sell them something they didn’t want and yet denying them funds to put the alternative opinion.

6 ‘Tenants Led’ claims of Scottish Executive
As John Carrocher of the STO highlighted in the Herald recently
Local Housing Association tenants simply do not have the same say as they had with Council.
Before stock transfer tenants had the right and opportunity to negotiate with their landlords/the Council on whatever issue came up –city wide or more local
Now tenants reps on the GHA for example cannot even take many issues to tenants because they are ‘commercially and financially sensitive’
Housing Associations not tenant led organisations at all.
Management teams take all the decisions according to the business plan and need to pay back money to banks etc.

7 ‘Never mind the Ballots’ – says the SE!
Lost the Edinburgh debate, the Stirling debate, lost the Renfrewshire debate. What does Minister expect of Inverclyde and Highland transfers?
Would he bet on YES if his seat depended on it?

‘Tragedy’ claimed Malcolm Chisholm after Edinburgh, Stirling and Renfrewshire results. ‘Tragedy’ if he tries to carry on like King Canute pretending this policy has a future.
Minister is an honourable man – single parents benefits resignation, his honourable statements against ‘dawn raids’.
Will he respect the democratic views of tenants? And invest in their option, housing fit for the 21st century and available to everyone and managed and controlled by the public?

I ask him today to answer a straight question
- If he is ‘five and o’ at the end of the month, with Inverclyde and Highland results will he resign or accept the inevitable?

8 SSP believes top quality housing is a right everyone has - high standard, affordable to all, publicly owned and democratically controlled.

The SSP proudly fights for everyone’s right to live in homes fit for the 21st century which are affordable to all – yes subsidized if necessary – publicly owned and democratically owned and managed. That’s what sets us apart from New Labour. I move support for the motion in my name.
Notes for debate
LHO’s and LHA’s - 50 or 60 LHO’s get designation status - 5 local housing associations in Glasgow ‘simply do not trust the GHA anymore’. Complaints at how few homes transferred to local HA’s

Promises of 3,000 new builds- not a single brick laid by a single LHO.

1 comment:

  1. Here's the transcript in Parliament. Plenty of weel-kent faces who should be black affronted at accepting up-front blackmail privatisation.