TEN MILLION men woman and children live in social housing about one in every six households in the UK is a social tenant household. Every single one of them is under attack from the Conservative Chancellor Osborne’s desire to privatise what we now call social housing. Not just the privatisation issue and there are many more attacks yet privatisation is the Conservatives end game.
TEN MILLION men women and children face the abject horror of private landlords replacing their social landlords with Chancellor Osborne looking at not IF he privatises but HOW he does it.
TEN MILLION lives will face the inevitable increase in their social rent to market rent levels that on average will double their rent AND take away the rights social tenants have and reduce them to the hopeless level of rights of the private tenant.
It is an outrage that the ‘humble’ social tenant does not have a group campaigning for their issues and rights and especially when there are such lobbies for private tenants. That is what the TCG seeks to achieve and it will achieve if we unite and begin to use the massive power that 5.6 million social tenant voters have in influencing government.
We do have hundreds of campaigning protest groups each focusing on a wide range of issues that affect the social tenant. Just in the bedroom tax alone we have scores of Facebook anti-bedroom tax groups each giving their solutions and their advice, much of it very good yet some of it not. Much advice is given immediately and often emotively and regularly we see 20 people all publishing the same article on the same day and often such articles are wrong in fact and in law too.
This is self-defeating and it describes a lack of co-ordination that is greatly needed. It is much better to have 20,000 Facebook anti-bedroom tax campaigners all supporting 1 campaign than 200 campaigners supporting and advocating 100 separate and different campaigns.
That is just the bedroom tax which is just one issue affecting tenants and while the policy is pernicious and must go, the bedroom tax is nowhere near as bad in financial terms to tenants as the reduction in the overall benefit cap or the pay more to stay policy or the freezing of all welfare benefits at today’s rate until March 2021.
The Government has been forced to climb down in the Tax Credit cuts and was forced to do so very quickly in just a few months yet the bedroom tax despite huge awareness and publicity is still here after 31 months.
That is just one issue we have to be sanguine about and develop better and coordinated ways to ensure it does go.
However, the TCG has to prevent Osborne’s privatisation and that has to be its first and immediate priority and 5.6 million voters WILL win that fight. If the social housing model that came from the council house solution in the Welfare State goes then TEN MILLION men women and children are permanently affected for ever.
That fight in order to succeed has to (a) include as many social tenants as possible to give the TCG credibility, and (b) it has to be co-ordinated and TCG led. Further it is a fight of mutual benefit to all social landlords yet a fight they cannot win as they have nowhere near the power and influence of social tenants…if they unite and coordinate action and campaigns.
Over the last 24 hours or so since I proposed the Tenant Campaign Group I have received a huge amount of emails and calls from tenants, activists, tenant groups at landlords and from housing staff from housing officers right up to Chief Executives of landlords large and small.
They all like and support the idea and as simple as it gets argument that tenants if united DO have far more power and influence than landlords ever could have because they are voters. That is a major lesson and an immediate one from the Tax Credit climb down by the Conservatives.
The social tenant has been sidelined and an afterthought for far too long and has been controlled by social landlords in various tenant groups and fed a pittance too. Social landlords have a turnover in excess of £25 billion and if they collectively spend £10 million tenant involvement or tenant participation that would be 0.04%. Or put another way 99.96% of social landlord income does not go on tenant involvement and when it does it is only on controlled activity of tenants.
Yet within 12 hours of my post calling for a Tenant Campaign Group social landlords have accepted that tenants have potentially far more power to influence Government than they could ever muster! Many of the hundreds of emails today have been from social landlords asking if they can help and support!
There has also been many tweets from social landlords saying can we incorporate the TCG idea into OUR ideas such as #HousingDay and other campaigns. Social landlords simple do not get it. They want to continue to exert the huge control over the social tenant as they always have done and carry on with their delusions that social landlords are tenant focused and they support the social tenant.
Wake up social landlords no longer will the tail wag the dog and tenants have far more power and influence than you ever could achieve. No longer will social tenants be constrained by your pittance in funding and your inability to campaign because of your charitable status concerns. Social tenants through the TCG will be leading that fight and not be constrained by your limitations to challenge government.
Social Landlords – For the avoidance of any doubt the TCG will challenge the life out of you and that is only right. Yet the primary and immediate aim of the TCG is also your primary objective…and one that you cannot achieve. As much as you may not like that it remains valid.
The TCG does have far more potential influence than all social landlords if you could unite which you can’t in any case given the schism between NHF members that the voluntary deal has shown; and even if you could unite you would still have far less power and influence than a mobilised and united TCG representing TEN MILLION men women and children and 5.6 million voters.
We share the same common aim in the social housing model surviving and thriving and I know that the majority of housing professionals in social housing want that too yet they are powerless because Government will swat the collective power of the social landlords away like a fly. No it is not a nice thought but it is nonetheless true.
I could have approached all social landlords with my consultant head on and asked each of you to donate £5,000 each to a social housing campaign fund run through the TCG. That is just as simple an idea as seeking negligible amounts from social tenants each year to which there has been a huge response. Yet you would have dismissed the idea because you are not in control.
Again housing people wake up and smell the coffee. The cat is out of the bag and you cannot control the TEN MILLION men women and children you house that you wrongly call customers. The ‘humble’ social tenant if united and mobilised is much stronger than you could ever be and the TCG is the best and only way to defeat the ideologically driven nonsense of privatising the social housing model.
The crux of the matter
Tenants and landlords now realise that the mobilised, united and coordinated Tenant Campaign Group is the best way to challenge and fight government policy yet just as coordination and clear thinking is necessary to establish credibility that can only happen if the TCG is funded and funded quickly given the huge and immediate threats this government poses to social housing.
The TCG has to be independent of social landlords and I will not accept anything less than 100% independence and the TCG to be 100% tenant led. Yet because the immediate battle has to be the fight against Osborne privatising 63% of social housing that housing associations represent I have had offers of seed funding from social landlords based to get the TCG up and running and on a no-strings attached basis.
I want to put that idea out to social tenants and in a few exploratory conversations the idea of social landlords putting in 50p per tenant in an one-off donation to the TCG and with no-strings attached has been mentioned. So a social landlord with 10,000 tenants would donate £5,000 and another with 5,000 tenants would donate £2,500 as one-off and no-strings attached funding to get the TCG up and running.
Because fighting the privatisation of social housing is mutually beneficial to social tenant and social landlord the idea has merit and equity as each social landlords donates an equitable share and because it would only be acceptable on a 100% no-strings basis I am now putting the idea out to all social tenants on a simple Yes or No basis in the simple poll below that will be open until the end of November.
Finally, bear with me on responses to your hundreds of emails received on the temporary email set up at firstname.lastname@example.org over the TCG but keep them coming. My hand was forced in releasing the TCG idea that I had hoped to release in January 2016 because of the FT story about Osborne seeking to privatise housing associations and I am running around chasing my tail. If we can get the TCG off the ground it means I must give up other work and concentrate full time on the TCG and so I hope to get some admin support and a TCG website up and running as soon as that is possible.