UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Mutual housing model provides less not more democracy

As the Con Dem's promote 'choice and diversity' to break up collective provision of public services, the Guardian publishes self-interested spin claiming that privatisation of housing stock in Rochdale is good for democracy! https://socialenterprise.guardian.co.uk/en/articles/social-enterprise-network/2012/mar/28/rochdale-housing-mutual-ownership?CMP=EMCSOCEML657

The Rochdale Housing Co-op is being justified because Rochdale is the self-declared ‘home of co-operation’ yet what Rochdale Council have done is taken a decision - in direct opposition to the now emerging direction of travel in other councils which are moving to insource their ALMOs - by outsourcing their much needed social housing stock into a privately owned and managed Industrial and Provident Society.

Arguments that the new ‘charity’ (strange because they do not appear with a cursory search of the Charities Commission site as a ‘charity’) is somehow more democratic for the people of Rochdale is an utter nonsense. By the very fact this new private housing company – however laudable its purported aims – requires a ‘membership’ it excludes non-members from democratic participation in how local housing should be provided. A democratic deficit if ever there was one that is so unnecessary. ‘Membership’ is not a feature of traditional council housing, where elected councillors are rightly answerable on the availability and state of local housing stock.

The Guardian article talks of 100 employees engaged in the process with tenants – where there are likely hundreds more that are not engaged and never will be! And there is more than an odour of enforced ‘cooperation’ of employees - what choice did they really have in this given the political direction of Rochdale’s own supposed Labour leadership?

To risk placing social housing in an area of chronic deprivation, with under-currents of BNP activity in some of its most deprived areas, rising unemployment and benefit dependency, is tantamount to negligence on the part of the politicians

A new company, laden with £120 million of start-up debt, but responsible for the tinder box of social housing in Rochdale, has to be the most naive and political inept social policy to have emerged within Rochdale for decades.