council proposed selling 9,000 homes to Sunderland Housing Group. SHG spent a
small fortune (reportedly £720,000) trying to get their hands on Sedgefield's
homes with a sustained campaign of glossy material, DVDs and endless door to
door canvassing to try and win tenants' support.
But Sedgefield's council tenants have made it
clear that they want to remain as council tenants. They refused to give up their
secure tenancies and lower rents for promises and have voted to insist that the
council keep and improve their homes themselves.
The result adds to the pressure on Ministers
following the House of Commons Council Housing groupís report, a well attended
adjournment debate in Parliament and the Audit Commissionís report calling for a
review of housing finance. Faced with strong opposition from tenants around the
country, all the major trade unions and increasing numbers of Councils and MPs
it is only a matter of time now before the government is forced to announce a
change of policy.
Alan Walter, chair of Defend Council Housing,
said on hearing the result:
"This vote shows how deeply unpopular
privatisation of council housing is amongst tenants. John Prescott should now
keep the promise he made at the Labour Party conference last September and agree
a 'level playing field'. We're willing to sit down with him and the Prime
Minister to constructively work out a formula that allows all council tenants to
choose to remain with the council and get the improvements to our homes."
All local authorities are supposed to submit
their 'stock options' intentions by July 27. 71 have already decided to retain
their homes. Many others, including Birmingham, Southwark and Camden - where
tenants have also voted No - are backing the campaign for the 'fourth option'.
Those councils proposing to sell off their homes or go for the 'two-stage'
privatisation option of ALMOs are likely to face strong resistance from an
alliance of tenants, trade unions, councillors and MPs.