“Martin Wicks has written a valuable account of a grassroots campaign from the inside, but the book is more than that. It deals comprehensively with questions that arise when discussing housing and makes a convincing case for our being able to find answers collectively and democratically. This is essential reading for campaigners”
What Future for Council Housing?
Council housing and the housing crisis
A book by Martin Wicks
There is much debate about the acute housing crisis in Britain though it is mostly the voices of housing professionals and academics that are heard, not to mention government ministers who know little about housing. This book is written by a Council tenant and reflects the work and the ideas of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group which was instrumental is helping to defeat an attempt to sell-off Swindon’s more than 10,000 Council homes.
The book records the campaign against ‘transfer’ and the work of the Group in challenging coalition government policy. It looks at the crisis through the prism of the housing situation in Swindon: the decline of home ownership, the rapid rise of the private rented sector and the shortage of Council homes.
It offers a contribution to the debate about the roots of the crisis and how it can be resolved.
Council housing was a collective solution to a social problem created by the failure of ‘the market’. The profiteering private builder gave us ‘jerry built’ homes and the ubiquitous slums. Council housing was a liberation for people who lived in ‘rooms’ and over-crowded housing. It gave them better quality homes than most people in the private rented sector had.
The book offers evidence that the housing crisis cannot be resolved without a return to large scale Council house building once again. So long as housing remains dominated by commodity production then the shortage of genuinely affordable homes for rent and sale will drag on and the rising generations will to be forced to continue to live with their parents or in over-priced private rented accommodation with no security of tenure.
Britain is at a cross-roads where a question mark hangs over the future of Council housing as more and more of the homes are sold off. Yet another path can be chosen to halt the haemorrhaging of stock and to begin building Council housing on a scale large enough to address what is a crying social need.
Price £5 per copy, £7 including packaging and postage
For the price of multiple copies please email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07786394593
Please send a cheque made out to Martin Wicks, c/o The Shop (Resource Centre), Cavendish Square, Swindon SN3 2LZ
Really enjoying your book, which has so many echoes in it of how local campaigners in Leicester have been treated by the council and mayor. We have been questioning the rash of residential parking schemes introduced by the council and Mayor Peter Soulsby, under the guise of ‘transport planning’.
As in your battle over housing transfers, we found the council pretending to be ‘neutral’ when carrying out consultation ballots. Where these didn’t go the council’s way, areas would simply be redrawn in a crude gerry-mandering exercise. (A majority voted against in original consulted area? Well, we’ll just cut some streets out to arrive at a different figure! The majority in your road voted against? Well, we’ll just cut the road in half and introduce it in that part that voted in favour!)
When we warned residents that charges for parking permits could go up in the future, we were accused, just like yourselves, of being ‘biased’ and scare mongering!
Although we know this issue is of far less importance than the housing crisis, we came to realise that the Labour councillors and Mayor were using such schemes to pretend that they are addressing Leicester’s growing transport problems, which makes us one of the UK’s top ten traffic hotspots. They prefer this window-dressing to doing anything to improve local bus services which are appalling and expensive.
But most importantly the activity has revealed the lack of democratic accountability we suffer and the contempt in which voters are held by politicians, including many Labour ones. Our longest-serving campaigner was even linked by Mayor Soulsby with local vandalism of parking meters! Soulsby only belatedly and grudgingly made a retraction after receiving a letter from a lawyer.
I’m meeting a couple of friends tonight to show them your book.