DCH Press Statement 15 March 2005


Tower Hamlets Council Housing Manager Terry Damiano has issued an instruction to all housing staff to take down ‘Vote No’ posters on council estates in the east London borough.


Tower Hamlets, along with other local authorities around the country, is currently involved in balloting tenants over selling off their homes to private companies called Registered Social Landlords.


Alan Walter from Defend Council Housing said:


“It is outrageous that councils think they can rig the democratic process by preventing tenants from hearing both sides of this important debate. This isn’t democracy and it should be stopped immediately. Many senior council officers stand to gain personally from the high paid jobs created if council homes are privatised.


The new landlords are flooding estates with glossy brochures, videos and DVDs promoting privatisation. How dare they take down leaflets and posters giving tenants the arguments for rejecting privatisation and campaigning for direct investment.


There is a general election expected in a few weeks. Will they be instructing council staff to selectively remove posters during this process too?”


Ironically Councillor David Edgar, Tower Hamlet’s lead member for housing, has been participating in a serious of debate with DCH around the borough. He has argued that the council’s policy is not to promote privatisation but it has a responsibility to give tenants the opportunity to make their own decision.


Using council staff to take down material opposing privatisation whilst leaving up material supporting selling off estates is a clear breach of the council’s obligations to tenants and residents and Tower Hamlets tenants will be taking advice on what action is available to force the council to respect normal democratic procedures.


Government Ministers have repeatedly gone on record saying the government is committed to tenants hearing both sides of the debate. Housing Minister, Keith Hill, told delegates attending a London Federation of Tenants conference on 27 November 2003 ‘The law is entirely clear. Tenants need to be presented with equal information about the pros and cons of the various options for which they are being consulted. That is absolutely the principle that we as government and we as ministers conform to.’ At a fringe meeting during the Labour Party conference last September he expressed horror when delegates recounted stories of how councils are acting to prevent proper debate.

Tower Hamlets council has previously taken down anti transfer posters, refused adverts in the council’s East End Life local paper and bookings for campaign public meetings have been cancelled at the last minute. However in recent weeks Councillor David Edgar has been setting a new tone by debating with Alan Walter of DCH on three occasions. A further debate with Austin Mitchell is planned for next week and Edgar has agreed to arrange further meetings in other parts of the borough.

See campaign website for general background information www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk

On March 8th the House of Commons Council Housing group of MPs concluded its third evidence taking session as part of its inquiry into support for the ‘fourth option’ for council housing. A report on the conclusions is due out soon.