'Fourth Option' - investment to improve existing and build a new generation of first class council housing
Come to Parliament on January 22
Lobby MPs and provide evidence to support amendments to the Bill
The House of Commons Council Housing group of MPs is organising an inquiry to collect evidence to support amendments to the government's Housing and Regeneration Bill. The MPs are asking tenants, trade unionists, councillors and others to send in evidence and come to Parliament on January 22 to lobby MPs.
Dear Supporter, DCH new newspaper
Government has introduced a new Housing and Regeneration Bill. This provides an opportunity to secure changes to the local authority housing finance regime to enable councils to improve all existing, build new and maintain all council housing as first class housing for years to come. It also provides opportunities for those opposed to a first class council (public) housing sector who seek to means test 'low cost rented housing', give predatory landlords opportunities to buy council estates, transfer key decisions from Ministers to new quangos and break up the national HRA - without putting in place guarantees for all councils.
Your support is needed to make sure we get the right result!
The House of Commons Council Housing group is holding a new inquiry to collect evidence to support amendments to the Bill. The group asks organisations to send in written evidence and apply for a timeslot on January 22 to provide oral evidence and answer questions.
We also want tenants, trade unionists and councillors to lobby their constituency MPs on the day and show government Ministers the breadth and depth of support for investment in council housing. Email your MP now and ask him/her to sign the new Early Day Motion 368 Investment in Council Housing.
The new Defend Council Housing newspaper advertises the event, describes key parts of the Bill and the changes we plan to introduce as amendments.
Time is obviously short. Government wants to rush this Bill through early in the new year. Please make plans before Christmas to provide evidence and bring a delegation down to Parliament on January 22. Contact tenants organisations, trade unions and your local council and ask them to 'empower' tenants by sponsoring a broad based delegation to take part.
Alan Walter
chair, Defend Council Housing
Austin Mitchell
chair, House of Commons Council Housing group
What the Bill includes...
Introduce means testing to 'low cost rented housing'
Discriminate against councils building new homes while offering public money to profit-making companies with little protection for either tenants or taxpayers
Transfer key responsibilities from elected Ministers and government departments to an unaccountable regulator
Give the regulator powers to determine criteria for allocating accommodation, terms of tenancies and levels of rent
Break up the national Housing Revenue Account without long-term guarantees for funding council housing
Enable predatory landlords (similar to 'Tenants Choice' under HATs in 1988) to 'persuade' tenants to ballot to transfer their homes and estates.
Get your MP to back these changes
Means-testing, profit and deregulation
Prevent stigmatisation and maintain universal access by removing the means test eligibility element to 'low cost rented housing'.
Delete clauses which exempt profit-making companies from the various regulatory protections for tenants and taxpayers.
Keep key political decisions such as allocating accommodation, terms of tenancies and levels of rent with elected politicians.
Require that tenants receive financial support for genuinely independent tenants organisation for the purposes of holding their landlord to account, and improving their housing services, conditions and amenities (section 86(4)).
Funding Existing Council Housing
Require that local authorities retain all rental income and capital receipts from council housing to be specifically used to manage, maintain, improve existing or build new council homes. Any surplus to be pooled centrally to be redistributed to authorities bidding for extra funding.
Require the Secretary of State to fund local authority housing Management & Maintenance Allowances at 100% of need (as defined by the Building Research Establishment, Estimation of the need to spend on maintenance and management in the Local Authority housing stock, June 2003).
Require the Treasury to take over historic debt where tenants have expressed a clear choice to remain with the council to provide a 'level playing field' with debt write-off when homes are privatised by stock transfer.
Require that councils considering opting out of the national HRA are able to demonstrate that their HRA balance sheet is positive over the 30 years business plan.
Building New Council Housing
Prevent discrimination against local authorities by ensuring that receipt of Social Housing Grant is not conditional on setting up arms-length companies.
Ensure that all new homes - including those built by ALMOs and SPVs - give tenants 'secure' tenancies.
Homes & Communities Agency
Require that full consultation takes place with tenants when allocating Decent Homes funding and that tenants' choice to remain with the council is respected and retaining authorities are not discriminated against financially.
Democracy: A Fair and balanced debate
Require that the principles of a fair and balanced debate as defined by the House of Commons Council Housing Group are applied when landlords consult their tenants. This should include resources to ensure that both sides of the argument are clearly put with a ballot of every tenant at the end of the consultation run to a pre-defined timescale with clear start and end dates.
Produce evidence to submit to the inquiry...
The MPs are calling on supporters of council housing to submit formal written evidence and to apply to provide oral evidence and answer questions at Parliament on January 22. Encourage your council to use its expertise to help provide evidence and ask them to fund a delegation to attend the event. All councils say they want to 'empower' tenants - here's a real opportunity!. Issues to address include:
Changes to the present HRA subsidy system (locally and nationally) to enable authorities to improve existing, build new and maintain all council housing as first class housing for years to come
Financial modelling by local authorities showing the benefit/loss to their HRA from breaking up the national HRA on financially neutral terms; retaining all rental income and capital receipts; debt write-off on equal terms available on transfer; increasing M&M to 100% of need
Means-testing and its effect on sustainable communities - particularly welcome will be statistical information from local authorities on historic and current demographic analysis of council tenants and those on waiting list, the effect on allocations policy from reduction in supply, and estimates of what level of new council housing provision would make communities mixed and sustainable again.
Proposed 'Tenants Choice' ballots
OFTENANT and its possible application to council housing (consultation, tenant empowerment, policy-making such as rent levels, and accountability).
Providing Social Housing grant) to profit-making landlords and local reaction to withholding SHG from councils retaining the direct management of their homes; the effect this is likely to have on security, affordability and value for money for the taxpayer.
Actual affordability of 'affordable' housing (including rented and shared ownership schemes) available locally showing who has access and who is excluded
Demand for council housing locally
DCH has rushed out a briefing - including areas for MPs to table amendments to the Bill. We understand the Committee considering the bill will take evidence before Christmas and the bill will then be debated again in January.

Help us break through the soundbites and remind those who mouthed 'warm words' for council housing over the summer of the commitment they made to provide the 'Fourth Option' for council housing. Contact your MP and ask him/her to read this briefing, sign the new Early Day Motion and speak in the debate supporting our arguments.

If your council has retained its homes, has an ALMO or has yet to consult tenants on the future of council housing find out what the latest position is and give tenants support to join this campaign.
Further information from www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk
To stop getting DCH email newsletters reply with UNSUBSCRIBE in subject.
What you can do
Co-ordinate a joint submission of evidence to the MP's inquiry from local tenants, trade unionists and councillors
Organise a broad delegation to Parliament on January 22, 2008
Order copies of this newspaper (£18 per 100 / £100 per 1000) and distribute to tenants, trade unions and councillors in your area
Ask your MP to sign the new Early Day Motion Investment in Council Housing (EDM 368), meet you at Parliament on January 22 and join the Commons Council Housing group
Pass the DCH model motion and adopt the campaign's five demands for 'Fourth Option'
Get your organisation to Affiliate & donate to DCH - we urgently funds to make the case for council housing and oppose privatisation
Download initial DCH Briefing on the Bill
Letter to supporters