Saturday, October 02, 2010

Labour Conference 2010: Labour Housing Group Fringe

On the Sunday evening there was a packed fringe meeting of the Labour Housing Group (LHG).  Which is a national organisation directly affiliated to the Labour Party.  It is "dedicated to developing and promoting effective housing policy". The meeting was chaired by Marianne Hood OBE.

First speaker was Unite National Housing officer, Rachel Maskell.  "We have a massive housing crisis.  4.5 million people on the rehousing waiting list, 1.8 million families. She praised the last Labour Government for doing good stuff on Education and health but the next Labour government must prioritise "Housing and jobs".  There needs to be a change in political will.  A 100,000 new homes would cost £6 billion but would result in 750,000 jobs construction jobs.  Labour knows that homes are not just about "brick and mortar" its about people.  Most jobs in housing especially in social care are carried out by low paid women. Cuts in the housing sector are an attack on women.  Cuts in the legal aid budget not only means cuts in benefits for the already poor but cuts in the ability to challenge unfairness and wrong decisions.  Labour believes in campaigning for work and homes for all people.  The Tories version of this is the Work House".

Next was new (small caps) Labour MP and former Unite Assistant GS Jack Dromey.  "Labour has a proud record of achievement in housing but there is still a £19 billion backlog in decent homes.  Labour  took decisive action to stop reprocessions.  There is much to be proud of the Labour record and we must never allow the Tories to rubbish our record.  But we must return to a time such when even Tory PM Harold Macmillan use to boast that the Tories would build 200,000 new homes per year.  We need to build 300,000 new homes per year. The cuts in housing benefit will result in the cleansing of the poor and vulnerable.   There are still 400,000 homes that are needed to be brought up to decent homes standard.  If this was done did would create 54,000 jobs in construction.  We need to create a great national movement to make housing a key political issue.

Vice Chair of the LHG Jacky Peacock OBE spoke next about her work as a Housing advice worker and how she often has to warn private tenants that they are perfectly entitled to report their landlord for not  repairing serious health and safety hazards.  However if they do - they run the risk that they will be evicted since if Landlords follow the legal rules there is nothing that can be done to stop them. There is no defence.  She believes that this government now wants to strip public sector tenants of their rights as well. Thatcher in her wildest dreams never thought she could get away with this.  She predicted that the reductions in housing benefit will result in the abolition of the statutory right to rehousing by the vulnerable homeless since Council's will simply not be able to cope with the numbers.  The wheel is being reinvented and she remembers how shocked she was to see people sleeping on the streets 30 odd years ago when "Boarding House" allowances were abolished. 

Former Housing minister Nick Raynsford spoke how the previous Labour government had been able to avoid the consequences of the worse recession since the war by fast and brave actions.  This recovery has now been stopped.  Tory Ministers, Pickles and Sharp, compete on who can be the most horrible to housing.  Remember the Tory lies before the election when they accused Labour of scare mongering about threats to tenants rights.  Some £60 billion had been invested by RSL's in housing during the last 25 years. This housing "bonus" is under threat by cuts. 

London GLA member Nicky Gavlon Nicky spoke about how the Tories and their Lib Dems allies have only 2 housing policies - a obsession with cutting and hostility to public sector organisations and the public service ethos.  She did bring up the idea of a London branch of the LHG which I fully endorsed in the Q&A as a means to counter the right placing their tanks on our lawn and winning the battle of ideas.  Nicki mentioned that we hope to be able to launch this in London at the Labour Regional biannual meeting in November.  Watch this space. 

I had to miss the end of the meeting to rush off to the Mary Honeyball MEP meeting - which was a shame but this is conference.


Anonymous said...

if the labour party hadnt made such a mess of things in the first place and they couldnt do nothing about the greedy bankers they would still be in .

John Gray said...

Hi anon

Hang on - it was the greedy bankers who made a mess of things. Never forget this.

Check out Red Ed's views on regulation, stakeholder reps on remun committees and controlling executive pay.