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Organising an effective campaign...

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Research Tools checklist
20/12/07

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David v Goliath
DCH doesn't have any paid workers or an office so our ability to directly support local campaigns is very limited. We concentrate on providing a regular national newspaper, pamphlets and briefings and a website. We hope these put the general arguments, demonstrate that this fight is going on across the UK and that we have a very broad alliance backing our demands. We also try and and organising fringe meetings, conferences and lobbies to have maximum effect.
There is lots of experience of fighting effective local campaigns. If we can't help you directly we can put you in touch with others around the country who will give you advice and support.
The key skills you need are commitment, a preparedness to work with others you may disagree with on other issues (DCH works with anyone - except the Nazis), writing and producing good local material to challenges the council's propoganda and put the alternative and a strategy for getting information to every tenant and giving the campaign a high profile in your area...
If your council is proposing transfer, PFI or ALMO: organise an effective campaign
STANDING UP TO THE COUNCIL can seem a bit daunting at first but don’t be put off. There’s lots of experience and people who can help you organise a campaign in your area.
Once you get out on the estates you will find that most tenants are instinctively wary of council glossy PR campaigns and know that privatisation has been a disaster in other public services.
The key is to produce good local material that takes up the general arguments and counters the council’s case for privatisation. Contact DCH and check examples of local leaflets on the campaign website. Ask the council trade unions and sympathetic councilors for help challenging the council’s arguments (councils often hide or distort important financial information to support their claim there is no alternative).
Make the campaign as broad as possible – involve tenants, unions, councilors and other organisations in your area. And make sure that you look like you are serious about winning. If other tenants think you are just protesting you won’t be taken seriously.
Getting out on the estates and going door to door is essential but there are lots of additional ways to get your message across. Hold public meetings in local halls and invite national as well as local speakers. Leafleting parents outside primary schools is a good way to talk to tenants and find volunteers to help on their estates. Cover churches, mosques, bingo halls and community centres too.
Ask unions in local hospitals, schools, factories and offices to distribute leaflets to their members and put up posters on union noticeboards. Send letters to the local papers and brief journalists to run regular reports. And in the run up to the ballot use car loudspeakers and tour estates to get your message across.
The council will spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a confident glossy PR campaign telling tenants there’s no alternative. They want to make it seem like it’s a ‘done deal’. But as campaigns around the country have showed we can organise effective campaigns on a shoe string. Tenants aren’t stupid – they just need to hear about the alternatives and most people’s instincts are against privatisation and they are very wary of expensive one-sided council PR campaigns.

DON’T WAIT. The earlier you start campaigning the better. And don’t trust any ballot timetable the council may publicise - they regularly start ballots early so that tenants vote before getting material putting the arguments against.

Build a broad-based campaign. The most effective local campaigns are led by tenants, and supported by trade unions, local councillors and MPs. Involve everyone who agrees we need more investment in council housing and is prepared to oppose privatisation.

Contact your tenants federation or forum, and individual tenants associations in the area and ask them to back the campaign. Some will, others won’t because they are scared of losing council funding or have been incorporated too far into the stock options process. Argue strongly that even if they won’t oppose privatisation they should, at least, help distribute material to ensure that tenants hear both sides of the debate. Don’t give up if some ‘tenants reps’ aren’t responsive – tenants on the estates will be.

Organise a local DCH meeting to plan the campaign. Involve tenants, trade unionists and, where possible councillors and MPs too. Make a Freedom of Information Act request NOW for all the addresses (not tenant’s names) of council homes in the area so you can plan distribution of material effectively.

Question the council’s financial analysis. Councils frequently mislead tenants by painting a very black and white picture: transfer, PFI or ALMO or ‘you won’t get any improvements’. Often they create a higher local ‘Gold’ standard – and then say the council can’t afford it. Read the council’s ‘options appraisal’ report, ‘business plan’ and minutes of meetings. Find out what improvements the council can do and whether the extra work is worth the risks involved.

Approach local unions for financial support. Many unions have special regional and national funds that local branches can apply to. Contact local branches of Amicus, CWU, GMB, PCS, RMT, T&G, UCATT and UNISON (who all support the campaign) and the local Trades Council. Ask for funding and help with design and printing, organising meetings, loudspeakers, etc.

Lobby your councillors and MP. Councils try and create the impression that the outcome is a ‘done deal’ but don’t be intimidated. Many councillors will have voted without fully understanding the issues or questioning the advice of senior council officers (who usually stand to gain from the proposal). Some will be open to persuasion. ‘Thank you for sending me a copy regarding the Fourth Option. I dearly wish it was in my possession some months ago.’ North Somerset Councillor

Produce local material. Leaflet every home but also have stalls at markets and high streets and give out material at churches, mosques and to parents outside primary schools Order more copies of this newspaper to get the arguments across to tenants. DCH can also help with writing local leaflets (see examples on the campaign website) and by providing speakers for meetings and debates..

High visibility is important. Get posters up on every estate and street, and borrow a car loudspeaker to tour estates. Send letters to the local press, organise lobbies or stunts to get publicity and ask trade unions to sponsor adverts in the press to put the arguments across.

Demand a ballot. Some councils try and set up ALMOs or PFI schemes without holding a formal ballot of all tenants - if you don’t challenge them they will try to submit lesser evidence of consulting tenants to avoid a proper vote. Demand a full debate and a formal ballot of all tenants. Tenants in Camden, Lambeth, Nottingham, Sutton and elsewhere have all won this basic right. It’s called democracy.

Know your rights. The government has been forced to introduce statutory guidance on consultations for stock transfer, which councils are legally obliged to follow. There have also been a number of judgments by the District Auditor. This open letter to the chair of the CLG select committee gives details.

To get a local campaign started...
Most of the major unions are affiliated nationally to the campaign. Contact local branches of CWU, FBU, GMB, PCS, RMT, UCATT, Unite, UNISON or the local Trades Council. Ask for the housing convenor or branch secretary. All these unions support the campaign nationally so they should be able to help. Even if they don't have a lot of money, union branches can give all kinds of useful support, from photocopying facilities to their members helping to distribute leaflets. UNISON branches can apply to a "General Political Fund" for funds to fight the campaign.
Send local councillors information and ask if any of them are opposed to the proposals. The council's website or switchboard will be able to give you a list of councillors - their details should be in the public domain. You can go to the surgery of your own ward councillors and speak to them directly; but send information to all of them. Don't forget your local MP too.
If you can, contact your tenants federation, and other tenants associations in the area. Most councils maintain a list of TAs and their contact details on their websites or a 'community information' database; they should give you this if you ask. Try a local library if you don't have access to the internet.
Write a letter to the local paper asking people to contact you if they are interested in fighting the council's privatisation proposals.
Organise a public meeting. Ask DCH for a speaker and ask any sympathetic union reps, councillors and MPs. Advertise it in the local paper - if you can't afford an advert then write a letter to the letters page and send a press release. Put posters up on estates, in libraries, community centres and shops. Invite councillors and TA reps.
You have the right to ask for all the addresses (not names) of council homes in your area - whoever you are and without having to give a reason. The Information Commissioner has ruled on this already. Make a 'Freedom of Information' request to your council.
Produce good quality local material
Find out what stage the council is at and be aware of what's happening and when. Don't wait - start as soon as possible!
Collect quotations from tenants reps, councillors, unions, e
Take some good photographs - such as campaigners protesting outside the Town Hall, or a meeting hearing the arguments against, or a group on an estate with 'No to transfer' placards.
Get hold of relevant council documents in order to analyse their case for transfer - ask for the business plan, options appraisal, stock condition survey, reports on the transfer to council. There is a list of questions to ask under 'stock options' on our website.
And don’t let councils bully workers
Councils often try and bully council workers into helping them bully tenants to accept privatisation. They talk about the need for ‘team working’ – but don’t mention that senior managers personally stand to get big pay rises if privatisation goes ahead. Sometimes they threaten job losses if tenants vote No but they are regularly caught out massaging the figures to paint a bleak picture.
Most RSL landlords are either not unionised or have worse union organisation. There is a much bigger turnover of employees and constant mergers and takeovers give the employer the upper hand.
Get tenants to leaflet housing workers to propose a joint campaign. Organise union meetings at work and invite tenants, union officials, sympathetic councillors and MPs opposed to privatisation to come in to speak.
All the trade unions oppose privatisation of council housing. Contact yours and ask them to help you defend council housing as a public service.

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