Tenants lobby for a fourth way

Over 1300 tenants, councillors and trade unionists from all over the UK took part in a mass lobby of Parliament last week (Wednesday 8) to demand a fourth option for council housing, later attending a rally addressed by MPs Austin Mitchell, Frank Dobson and Kate Hoey, designed to keep up pressure on the government.

Four tenants from TACT, Winchester City Council's tenant consultative group attended, accompanied by Cllr Sheila Campbell, Leader of the City Council and Cllr Dominic Hiscock, Portfolio Holder for Housing. Before attending the rally, the group lobbied local MP Mark Oaten, who pledged his support for the Fourth Option.

"The 'Fourth Option' of direct investment in council housing as an alternative to the government's three current options for additional investment, is the demand supported by tenants, trade unions, councillors and local authority landlords, backed by a growing number of MPs, " says TACT Chairman Alan Rickman.

"Most tenants want to stay with the Council, as the recent Housing Options opinion survey of Winchester City Council tenants proved. TACT is non-political, but this does not mean we should not use all the information and help at our disposal. Now is the time to take action along these lines, not in two or three year's time when Housing Options will be on us again - it could be too late by then!"

The House of Commons Housing Group has produced a Cross Party Report supporting the Fourth Option for council housing which states the case for the use of public investment in council housing. It would allow councils to finance, maintain and improve their housing stock, seek to give councils a level playing field to work on, with the right to borrow prudently and re-invest all housing revenues and capital receipts in improving housing for present and future tenants.

"The Government's subsidy system means that over 40% of rent paid by Winchester tenants goes straight to the Government to fund housing nationally," said Cllr Hiscock, "as does 75% of the money from Right to Buy property sales. It is unlikely that councils will be able to continue to manage council housing unless we are able to operate on a level playing field with housing associations and the City Council will continue to argue for greater freedoms in the future."