Housing Stock Transfer

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2003 Local Government Service Group Conference
21 February 2003
Carried as Amended

Conference condemns the Government’s ‘Communities Plan’ released on 6 February 2003. This is effectively a plan to remove English local authority housing from local democratic control and transfer staff to a plethora of other employers.

Conference notes that local authorities will only be able to choose three investment options: stock transfer; the Private Finance Initiative (PFI); and, for high performing authorities, Arms Length Housing Management Organisations (ALMOs).

The Government is intending to remove any unnecessary barriers to stock transfer, including meeting the cost of early redemption of Public Works Loan Board debt, extending arrangements for repaying overhanging debt to partial stock transfers, and exploring options for gap funding of negative value housing stock.

In Wales similar measures on debt payments are to be introduced to make stock transfer the only effective investment option for local authorities. The Scottish Executive has failed to review its policy of stock transfer as being the only vehicle for investment for council housing.

Conference recognises however that throughout the UK the pressure to transfer arises from the nature of the financial regime available to local authorities for the maintenance of existing stock and the possibility of providing new build affordable housing. Conference condemns the financial blackmail of local authorities in this way and urges the Government to recognise that democratically accountable local authorities should have the investment ability to deal with their own housing problems. Only this solution will allow the development of genuinely affordable housing, essential not only for public sector workers but to stem the tide of homelessness.

Conference therefore agrees to step up the campaign of opposition to stock transfers, PFI and Arms Length Housing Management Organisations and instructs the SGE to:

1)Ensure that local branches have the ability and information to evaluate local housing plans in conjunction with local tenants

2)Campaign in conjunction with tenant organisations, trade unions and other housing campaigns

3)Request that the Affiliated Political Fund uses its influence regionally and nationally to promote real tenants choice and retention of housing stock under democratic control and raise this matter urgently with MP’s, councillors and constituency parties.

4)Request that the NEC make this issue a prominent part of the Positively Public Campaign in the coming weeks and months

5)Develop appropriate guidance and campaigning materials

6)Campaign with all UK governments to ensure that local authorities have the investment ability to deal with local housing needs through public financing

Conference notes the threat to our members’ jobs, not just in housing, but in other parts of the council. Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive, regions and branches to prioritise campaigning on this issue and build strong organisation in the housing sector including securing recognition agreements with registered social landlords.

Conference unreservedly condemns the privatisation of council stock. Conference recognises that throughout the UK, a plethora of new initiatives have been launched, leaving UNISON branches with major difficulties in responding, with different legislative solutions in different countries.

Conference demands that every branch should have the back up of the national union, and should be able to respond to local circumstances. Both to protect the council workforce but also to ensure that the views of local tenants and their housing needs are fully taken into consideration. Conference believes that the key principle branches should prioritise is the maintenance of local democratic control, recognising that this may not be exercised via the traditional council route. Only by recognising that the solutions to local problems lies locally can UNISON keep faith with council tenants, who live daily with the decades of housing neglect. This union cannot stand on the sidelines when housing investment comes with strings but must work to negotiate a solution for tenants, and housing workers.