Tuesday 1 April 2008

Reneging on the Housing Promise.

Last year after he was appointed Labour Party leader Gordon Brown announced to the delight of Labour Party members that under his leadership the Government would let councils build council houses once again. This was the seen as the culminating success of the "Defend Council Housing" campaign. For four years running the Labour Party conference had carried a resolution supporting the demands of this campaign that local authorities should be treated the same way as housing associations and be allowed once again to build council houses.

Last night the opportunity came to turn Gordon Brown's promise into reality with the enactment of the Goverment's Housing and Regeneration Bill. Austin Mitchell MP moved an amendment to the Bill which would have implemented the Priime Minister's promise and Labour Party conference policy.

Gordon Brown was addressing the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting at the time in order to rally the troops for the forthcoming local council elections.

In the Commons Chamber Government Ministers were ensuring that the amendment to implement Labour Party policy was voted down. Thirty Labour MPs voted against Gordon Brown but that was not enough to see the policy through.

Just check the voting list. There were some MPs who were unable to make the vote for understandable personal reasons with family illness and such reasons. Others, who have vocifereously shouted their support for more council housing, were noticeable by their absence.

On the Government's own calculations the new Housing Bill will generate at most an additional 2500 houses in the whole country. This is a disaster for those in housing need. To put this in context we have over 500,000 households living in overcrowded conditions, 80,000 families homeless and 112,000 children being brought up in temporary accomodation, 700 in bed and breakfast.

How in the name of all that the Labour Party has stood for over its history can we our expect our supporters to enthusiastically turn out and vote for policies that have resulted in a doubling of homelessness? The Government is undermining the campaigns of our Labour councillors and council candidates across the country by refusing to back Labour Party policies.

Instead of addressing the PLP on Monday evening Gordon Brown should have been leading Labour MPs through the Commons lobbies to fulfil the promise he gave last year to allow councils to build once again the homes our country needs so desperately.