Uncle Joe’s claims that the Liverpool City Council are to build their first council houses for 30 years1 turns out to be disingenuous to say the least.
By Ritchie Hunter
Liverpool Council built St. Martin’s Cottages in 1869 as a reaction to a groundswell of protest at the dire poverty and slum conditions in the city. Although a landmark in social thinking at the time, the rent was set so high that only skilled workers could afford one of these homes. Nevertheless, this was the start of Corpy housing, with millions of homes built and maintained by councils – until the 1980s that is, when Thatcher’s “Property Owning Democracy” undermined the social provision of housing.
Following the government conditional release of some of the proceeds of the sell-off of housing, Liverpool City Council set up a private limited company called Foundations. Showing that the revolving door between politics and business is still rotating, they appointed Frank Hont (the former councillor in charge of housing) as Chair and Mark Kitts as Chief Executive. Kitts then appointed three others to the board. No election, no advertisement, no scrutiny! This, in a company wholly owned by the council!
The brief for Foundations is to build ‘Rent to Buy’ houses, and because the council owns it then, technically, they can claim that that this is ‘Council’ housing.
But, like St. Martin’s Cottages, these are not for your average tenant. They are certainly not for people made homeless through losing their jobs or those claiming benefits. Anyone hoping for a new home will have to pay 80% of private market rate. This is the ‘Affordable’ rent, set at £40 a week above the social rent. That’s £125 a week as against £85 according to Joe Halewood, the social housing researcher and campaigner. He also says that the plans put forward in the Government’s 2018 Social Housing Green Paper promoting Councils as private landlords will mean that they “will eclipse all other social landlords”2
When asked about the move by Liverpool City Council into the private housing market, the Cabinet member for Housing replied: “…what Foundations is trying to do is to take the profits from those who can afford to pay higher rents or buy more expensive homes and then recycle that money for the good of people who aren’t so well off. Isn’t that what socialism and social justice is all about?” 3 [my bold emphasis]
Liverpool City Council have got themselves into a right bind with their trickle down economics. Their refusal to lead any fight back against Tory cuts to services has led them to embracing the market system. They see no other way to maintain any semblance of responsibility to social justice than to try to work within government plans; they’ve been sucked into privatisation. They have no choice within their limited vision. And they make a virtue out of necessity to justify this as the “Only Game in Town” whilst redefining what council housing, and Socialism are!
3. 29 July 2019. Councillor Lynnie Hinnigan (Deputy Mayor of Liverpool) in answer to Joe Halewood article: https://speyejoe2.wordpress.com/2019/06/10/council-housing-oh-no-its-not-ethical-my-ae-shame-on-you-mayor-joe-anderson