London Labour Housing off to a flying start

Last night’s launch of the London Labour Housing Group was an astonishing event.  Getting on for 200 people packed the Grand Committee Room in Parliament, full to overflowing.  Chaired by Nicky Gavron AM, guest speakers were Ken Livingstone, Karen Buck MP, and Linda Perks from Unison.  Alison Seabeck MP, Labour’s shadow housing minister, popped in from the Committee on the Localism Bill to wish us well.  The audience included MPs, councillors, unionists, tenants and Labour members from all over the capital, with outer London as well represented as inner.

Ken LivingstoneKen’s speech ranged over 4 decades of housing policy in London, the peaks when boroughs like Camden were producing 2,000 homes a year and the GLC had a target of producing 10,000 a year on top of the boroughs’ efforts, and the troughs when Thatcher was in power and the Tories held County Hall and all programmes were cut back.  If Labour policies had continued through the 1980s, it can confidently be said that London’s post-war housing crisis would have been overcome and the city would be totally different today.  Councils need to build again and we need to find ways of bringing private rents under control.  But our policies must also meet the needs not just of the poorest but of the many Londoners, people earning up to £70K a year, who can no longer afford to buy and also have limited housing options.  As London’s population continues to grow, genuinely radical policies are needed if the capital is not to resemble Paris, with the centre of the city occupied by the rich and the poor consigned to the outskirts.

Karen Buck MP

Karen focused on the changes to housing benefit and the local housing allowance.  She contrasted the number of people predicted to have to move from their local areas under this policy with the furore over Lady Porter in the 1980s; her attempts to remove the poor from Westminster were miniscule compared to what will happen now.  The danger lies in the range of changes combining together to force people on low incomes to move, but increasingly it was being realised that there is nowhere for them to move to.  If people attempt to move from expensive to cheaper areas the impact of the increased demand will be to raise rents at the lower end of the market – which would be catastrophic.  Rising homelessness, growing unemployment, increasing rents, growing dependence on private rented accommodation, all of these pressures would increase the HB bill; the policy would be devastating in effect but counter-productive in saving money. 

Linda emphasised the impact of the cuts on local government in London, and the fact that councils would be cutting back on front line services at just the time that people need them most.  It was important to link what was happening in housing to other sectors, especially health, because it was all part of a single policy to roll back the state.  She stressed the importance of getting maximum support for the TUC national demonstration against the cuts on Saturday 26 March in Hyde Park and pledged Unison’s support for housing campaigns in the coming months. 

There were around 30 contributions from the floor, identifying weaknesses in previous Labour housing policies, the issues being faced in the boroughs, the links between housing, employment, health and education, and ideas for future campaigns.  There was a strong focus on the need to win the Mayoralty in 2012 with a strong and radical housing policy.  The new London LHG will help develop those policies but also support a range of housing campaigns because the issues will not be properly addressed until we have a Labour Mayor in 2012, more Labour boroughs in 2014, and a Labour government whenever the General Election comes.

You can join Labour Housing Group at http://www.labourhousing.co.uk/join-lhg and contact London Labour Housing Group through steve@hilditchonline.com

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8 Responses to London Labour Housing off to a flying start

  1. Pingback: Housing policy will lead the way for Labour, says Livingstone | Red Brick

  2. Margaret Onians says:

    Housing is central to the whole economy as well as to every individual or family. Let’s put it at the heart of policy from now on. When challenged, all the candidates for the Labour leadership admitted that Labour had not paid it nearly enough attention: if we do not focus on it now we have no right to aspire to government ever again.
    In spite of the inevitable obstacles that will be raised by vested interests, we should have the ultimate target of providing enough homes for all who want them. While the market is undersupplied, prices will be driven up with all that that implies in terms of preventing people from moving to new jobs, forcing long journeys to work (bad for the environment), saddling people with higher housing costs than can comfortably be borne and generally undermining happiness and productivity – not to mention the benefits to the nation of a flourishing construction sector. Homes are not just desirable – they are necessary. Decent homes are necessary for good physical and mental health and stable families. Let’s find ways round the NIMBYs – and not be NIMBYs ourselves. This issue is fundamental.

  3. John Harman says:

    I have only recently returned to London after living in Middlesbrough for twelve years; therfore I was anxious to attend this meeting, as I consider housing to be an important issue. The meeting was very well attended, and the speakers excellent; they raised important and serious issues. I feel confident that we are on the right track. It is essential that everyone in the Labour movement does everything possible to ensure the Party is returned to office and Mr. Livingstone is once again Mayor of London.

  4. I found Ken’s focus on the need to focus on Council Housing refreshing. His vision of removing the stigma attached to council estates through opening up council housing to all sections in our society chimes well with my own aspirations. I also welcome comments from Ken about Labour’s failings in recent years in recognising the importance of Council Housing, and the over emphasis put on Social Housing and the private housing sector. We need to link up the dots between the need of housing workers of all professions and backgrounds here in London in order to keep London going.

  5. Maureen Ramsay says:

    As a member of the Labour Party I was thrilled to be at such a well run, informative debate. The energy in the room was very positive even though the facts were, of course, very lowering. Somehow the message has to get across to the commuting public who read the free press just what Ken is really about. They lost it for him last time, a good press image is as important as knocking on doors and as my daughter suggested photos and stories of real people’s case could be a great advantage. Labour Housing Group doesn’t stand a chance unless Ken is re elected.

  6. Brilliant meeting last night, though disturbing in content. Thank you for organising such a well-run and informative event. All speakers were inspiring and succinct, while contributions from the floor were also incisive and provided much food for thought. I will be writing a piece for Labour Uncut on housing generally and the Tory reforms specifically. For anyone interested, I wrote a piece back in 2010 that touches on these issues at local government level, with Cameron and Co pulling the ideological strings. http://bit.ly/ffHNEe

  7. Simon Wright says:

    Congratulations to Labour Housing Group for a great start to the London group; sorry I was not able to be there. This issue needs powerful voices to challenge the harm that the Tory-LibDem government is doing.

  8. Richard Govereh says:

    Last Night’s meeting was excellent, maybe Beginners’s luck since I have only recently joined the Labour Party. But all aside I was impressed with the commitment shown by all involved about the coming crises. I recently had my own crisis in applying for Income Support as my Employer at Sea failed to pay my wages. My local MP Andy Slaughter has been brilliant , so has Local Labour Councillors for my Askew Ward in Hammersmith. But as fate would have it I unearthed the true evil of the Tories in HAMMERSMITH. The Council maintains a Dual Computer System. Once a request is Generated from Jobseekers / Income Support it is receieved and kept floating without being acknowledged or Proccessed. In my case 5 weeks. The problem is if you are a Private Tenant the Landlord has 8 weeks of arrears then he can start the Eviction process. The council knows this full well. So for Ethnic Minorities this is an effective Tool of Ethnic Cleansing in West London. All blacks and Muslims are expected to now join their kin in East London. Allbn done subtly as other forms of Race segregation and attacks using loopholes in existing Housing Legilslation and , excuses of Cuts and understaffing, in one of the richest Boroughs in London. I have no doubt other council are exercising this technique. Luckily for me am decently educated, a highly qualified Immigrant and a True Class Warrior. I gave them a run for their money.

    But the abuse of the jobless, recently separated or disabled is too voilent for a Country of the Stature of the UK. Publicly Funded Bodies like Law4All and Citizen’s Advice give absolutely no meaningful Legal Aid to these Vulnerable Groups. Thats why even before the Horrors awaiting us All round the Corner Homeless Persons Unit ARE BRIMMING AND OVERFLOWINING WITH “UNDESIRABLES”

    I am ready to help Ken Campaign for the Mayoral Election but I think that the Media drive must tell these stories in colour. It takes only a few such stories to kick out the Tories.

    Well Done Again Steve and Organisers the Tide of History will Vindicate you!

    Rgds
    Richard Govereh

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