Council Homes should be Secure Homes

Posted: January 19, 2013 by rabidleftwinger in Lambeth living

UPDATE: Lambeth have now scrapped the idea for fixed term tenancies following pressure from tenants and Defend Council Housing. So the protest is cancelled. Well done everyone

The government’s localism bill in 2011 gave Councils the option to do away with lifetime tenancies for council tenants and bring in 5 year fixed-term tenancies so that people can be forced to leave council housing if their circumstances change. Lambeth are the only Labour council is London who is planning to implement this. We need to stop them.

Defend Secure Tenancies – Support Stable Communities
Lobby the Council
Friday 11th January, 6:30pm
Lambeth Town Hall

We know what the Tories are aiming to achieve with this – a dwindling number of council flats being offered as second class housing of last resort to a very few, and the majority of people being forced into over-priced insecure private renting or getting mortgages they can’t really afford. But why on earth would any labour council want to go along with this? More to the point, why is Lambeth the only labour council in London planning to bring this in?

Person 2 RETOUCHEDNot surprisingly, given that they have the choice, most labour councils are refusing. Ian Wingfield, for instance, cabinet member for housing at Southwark Council, said: ‘I’ve been a member of the council for 23 years and during that time we have been trying to create stable communities – fixed-term tenancies go against that”. And even if councils weren’t just opposing this measure on principle it is obvious to most that it won’t solve the problem created by a chronic shortage of affordable housing and a growing list of people who are desperately in need. As Marie Pye, cabinet member for housing at Waltham Forest Council, has said, implementing fixed-term tenancies will just lead to more administrative costs and uncertainty for tenants: ‘Why put them through all that anxiety and grief when the chances are at the end of it they will just get another tenancy? We would have to set up a whole bureaucracy to run it and we’d be putting people through a lot of anxiety.’

So the proposal by Lambeth council to introduce these fixed-term tenancies now is simply beyond belief. It is a shocking reversal of their own position in the run up to the Localism Bill when the new leader, Lip Peck, personally lobbied the Tory government not to introduce this option. But their promises and principles seem to be increasingly fickle. Already Lambeth are contradicting their promise that the new tenancies will only apply to new tenants – the report from the Lambeth Residents Conference says that the new Tenancy Policy will ‘not affect current tenants who have lifetime tenancies, unless they decide to move’. This is at a time when hundreds of existing tenants are being forced to move to avoid the ‘bedroom tax’, when housing benefit will be cut for anyone who has a spare bedroom.

Lambeth Cabinet planned to vote on this in December but postponed the vote to February in order for more residents to be consulted, after an outcry by Tenants and Residents Associations and Tenants Council. It is vital that they hear our views loud and clear and that they show real leadership in opposing this Tory agenda of downgrading council housing. We know there is a crisis in Lambeth over lack of secure affordable housing but we know, and the Lambeth Labour Party must know, that this is not the solution.

How can you help:

  • Come to the lobby, Friday 11th January, 6:30pm, Lambeth Town Hall and bring all your friends and neighbours
  • Can you help distribute leaflets or posters round your estate. Email us on lambethsaveourservices@gmail.com and we’ll put you in touch with local people who can help
  • Do you want a poster to display in your window. Email us at lambethsaveourservices@gmail.com and we’ll send you one
  • Write to your councillor to tell them what you think. You can do so via www.writetothem.com
  • Come to the planning meeting to help organise the lobby. The tenants council meets Wednesday 23rd January, 7pm, Lambeth Town Hall. Lambeth Save Our Services meets Thursday 7th February, 6:30pm, Vida Walsh Centre on Saltoun Road
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