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2007 National Delegate Conference
1 June 2007

Conference continues to be concerned at the growing housing crisis. The housing market is now such that in many areas home ownership is not an option for many of our members. Even “key worker” housing schemes are becoming unaffordable for the very key workers they were set up to help.

Currently there are three million council tenants, and more than 1.6 million households on waiting lists for social housing. The number on waiting lists is growing, and has approximately doubled in the last five years. Far from being a last resort, genuinely affordable social housing is a need for many ordinary working families.

Conference believes that:

1)decent, affordable, secure and accountable council housing is an essential public service used by nearly 3 million council tenants across the United Kingdom (UK);

2)there is a growing demand from 1.6 million households on council housing waiting lists;

3)the private sector and market forces are failing to meet housing need;

4)Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMO) do not protect public sector housing and where they have been pushed through without balloting of tenants, services and resources have suffered in the same way as where direct privatisation has been undertaken. Redundancies and reorganisations have been made which lead to a deteriorating service and mirror the conditions of directly privatised services.

UNISON re-affirms support for the fourth option for council housing as an alternative to the government’s three privatisation options of stock transfer, Private Finance Initiative and Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMO) and believes that investment to improve existing and build new council homes makes economic and political sense.

This requires government to stop robbing council housing and ring fence all the income from tenants’ rents, right to buy and transfer receipts to re-invest in council housing, and a level playing field on debt write-off and gap funding available to councils who transfer their homes to give tenants real choice and provide a long term, secure, future for council housing.

Conference notes that the Labour Party Conference in 2006 passed a resolution for the third consecutive year and calls on government to provide the Fourth Option of direct investment to council housing as a matter of urgency and that the Labour Party National Executive Council promised a working group would address the issues with conclusions early next year, 2007, and the expectation that a change of policy on council housing would be incorporated into the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Conference notes that 124 local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales have decided to retain their homes. Tenants in eleven more voted NO to transfer in 2006 and will be expecting their councils to adopt retention too. Together there are some 200 local authorities with a common interest in securing the “Fourth Option”.

Conference notes and welcomes the 102 MPs, across all parties, that have signed the new Early Day Motion (EDM 136) calling for direct investment in council housing, and notes that more than 260 MPs have signed one or more EDMs associated with this campaign.

UNISON congratulates Defend Council Housing for uniting tenants, trade unionists, councillors and MPs; winning more NO votes in 2006 than ever before and helping to push investment in council housing up the political agenda.

Conference pledges continued financial political and organisational support for:

a)local campaigns opposing stock transfer, PFI or ALMOs;

b)local tenant led campaigns in authorities with ALMOs to put the case for the management of homes to revert back to the council once the Decent Homes money has been spent, as the surest way of preventing two-stage privatisation;

c)Defend Council Housing initiatives at national and local level to mobilise support for a ‘level playing field’ for council housing and the Fourth Option of direct investment.

Conference believes that this union’s housing policy must also address the market failure that has resulted in a severe national shortage of affordable housing. This shortage causes untold misery to millions and leads to overcrowding and homelessness, and, ultimately, ill health and diminished life chances. Conference also calls, therefore, for the National Executive Council to campaign alongside other like minded organisations, for government measures to address housing market failure by building more affordable homes