Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing

A new Labour project for government must call upon both its major traditions - mutual as well as Fabian - to create an attractive synthesis, writes Kevin Gulliver.

Social Housing

Kevin Gulliver is the director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute and chair of the Centre for Community Research; he is writing in a personal capacity

The future of the Labour Party has centred recently upon an ‘either-or’ debate between burgeoning Blue Labour, emphasising empowerment, localism and dispersal of power, and more traditional supporters of state intervention and action, usually associated with the Fabian Society.

Yet in reality, a new Labour project for government must surely call upon both its major traditions – mutual as well as Fabian – to create an attractive synthesis challenging the Conservatives’ false dichotomy between the ‘Big Battalions’ of the state and ‘Little Platoons’ of civic society.

Labour’s roots lie in friendly societies, workers’ co-operatives and trade unions, emphasising self-help and collective endeavour (pdf), and supersede the later Fabian tradition.

Labour’s renewal needs to emphasise the role of an ‘active state’ to support third sector agencies so working in concert to deliver progressive public policies; this partnership approach seems to elude the Conservative-led government resulting in interminable re-launches of its ‘Big Society’ concept.

A policy area calling out for this synthesis to be put into practice is social housing, where four million homes are managed by local councils, housing associations and other social landlords drawing on public funds for capital programmes and to support rents. Yet tenants have little say in the running of their homes or communities; instead they are often vilified using stereotypes of ‘CHAVs’ and ‘NEDs’.

While retaining state oversight through funding, regulation and audit, social housing management should be devolved to tenants and communities via mutuals and tenant management organisations thus embedding both Labour traditions in the sector.

The benefits of transfer of assets to the control of tenants and communities include higher satisfaction ratings, better housing management performance, more active citizens and higher self-esteem among tenants; answering the ‘CHAV’ charge in spades. Tenants are more than capable, with training and other support from social landlords, in managing their own affairs (pdf).

Transfer of social housing assets to tenant and community control coupled with increased investment in housing and infrastructure would enable Labour to craft a coherent and progressive housing policy for the next general election that is grounded in its historical legacy and traditions.

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23 Responses to “Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing”

  1. Kim Blake

    RT @leftfootfwd: Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing: writes @KevinGulliver < Excellent piece

  2. Kevin Gulliver

    Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing: writes @KevinGulliver

  3. Wikiminster

    Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing: writes @KevinGulliver

  4. Watching You

    Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing: writes @KevinGulliver

  5. Michael

    Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing –

  6. Andy Bean

    Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing –

  7. J P

    RT @TheRightArticle: Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing –

  8. geof lane

    @TheRightArticle Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing – >> great tweet!

  9. Hens4Freedom

    RT @leftfootfwd: Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing: writes @KevinGulliver

  10. AltGovUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing: writes @KevinGulliver

  11. Stewart Kirk

    Two Labour traditions can come together in social housing: writes @KevinGulliver

  12. Anon E Mouse

    Labour’s housing policy was a farce. Less homes were built under a Labour government than any Tory one – same with comprehensive schools and council housing.

    Your problem here is the reason Blair was the most successful Labour leader in history and you completely miss his point about a big tent approach with this nonsense.

    There is no natural working class Labour voter left.

    The “chavs” as you describe them hate Labour because you flooded the country with immigrants putting pressure on housing and jobs and that remark is from Andrew Nether, Labour’s own man. Union membership is at an all time low and manufacturing jobs in large numbers no longer exist.

    Traditional Labour heartlands are on a serious decline where in Scotland, despite the Labour gerrymandering of the system the party was crushed by the SNP. It’s so bad that Labour couldn’t even win an outright majority in Wales.

    With Labour currently tanking in the polls due to the unelectable leader of the party – in fairness not voted for by either the PLP or Labour members- I think that if this is the best idea Labour activists have for a housing proposal then the party is doomed.

    Finally if you cite Polly Toynbee as the answer then you’re asking the wrong question. What on earth can a toff like her, flying to her third property – the villa in Italy contribute to this debate?

  13. Kevin Gulliver

    Ideas for a progressive housing policy: "@leftfootfwd: Two Labour traditions can come together in #ukhousing: writes".

  14. Robert

    I think it’s way top late for Labour, did anyone watch Labours care in the community on Panorama this week.

    I just think Labour moved care for the sick and disabled mentally ill into the private sector and left it, to become worse then before.

    Housing well yes labour has nothing to say anymore on social housing.

    Blair won his election by becoming the son of Thatcher, now of course all those Tories have gone home so have a number of New labour types, why bother with the copy when the real thing is now available.

    As for Union In have just decided to end my 48 years in the Union, it was a total waste of time and money…….

  15. Ed's Talking Balls

    Point of order: it’s inadvisable to reference Polly Toynbee if you want to be taken seriously.

  16. Clare Fernyhough

    I fail to see the point in these recent articles with regard to enabling and empowering social housing tenants.

    If labour don’t return to power after the next election and reverse the welfare reforms concerning housing benefit and the enforced rent rises (my housing association has informed me that mine will rise by 10% every year until 2025), there will be no social housing left since only the well off will be able to afford the rents.

    Where are the millions of the low paid and benefit recipients expected to live? That’s what we would like to know; no one has yet provided the answer to that.

  17. Anon E Mouse

    Clare Fernyhough – What we do know is that Labour built less houses of any type period and they have allowed this crazy situation to arise.

    They then got everyone addicted to Housing Benefits which allowed greedy landlords to hike up the rents to unreasonable levels because the government was picking up the tab as these rackman parasites got richer courtesy of the taxpayer.

    The madness had to end sometime and as for your rent rise of 10% a year I just don’t believe it. Someone is pulling your leg I think.

    As for Labour returning to power there is no chance with the hapless Ed Miliband “leading” the party….

  18. Ed's Talking Balls

    The housing benefits reforms need to come into force before they could conceivably be undone in the future.

    Along with the majority of the country, I want to see this monstrous situation changed. It’s utterly wrong that someone who refuses to work can live, subsidised by those who do work, in Kensington, Islington, Notting Hill etc, when people who work their whole lives couldn’t dream of living in such areas.

    As The Telegraph once put it:

    ‘To put it in perspective, consider how much you would have to earn, after tax, to pay rent of £30,000 or £40,000 per year. Taxpayers are not only being inordinately generous: they are being taken for a ride’.

    The coalition must have the courage to put a stop to this. I fear that it won’t.

  19. Jeremy Corbyn

    Housing is in crisis. In my part of London there are more private rented than owner occupiers. We need commitment to provide secure tenaned council homes and control, registration and regulation of the private sector. The Housing Allowance is driving thousands away from inner city Britain. Labour did well on decent homes stanadrsd but largely failed to build or buy.

  20. Robert

    Love it rents of £30,000 what a week month or year, I pay rent but as for you poor old hard working chaps, well tomorrow you might walk across the road a drunk hits you, he gets jail you get a few thousand quid in compensation, he was not insured you see. You wake up and the doctor says to you sorry mate you will never walk again, but no not worry Labour and the Tories have great plans for you, get a job.

    If you really think we are all happy sitting at home with tubes stuck up our dicks while you hard working tax payers pay my rent, well sorry mate.

  21. Ed's Talking Balls

    Please don’t personalise matters, Robert. I genuinely did not intend, throuh my comment, to move this debate onto disability. I’m very sorry if I offended you.

    I would never wish your suffering on anyone and I think that a civilised society will always help those in such situations. I certainly never said that all claimants are undeserving and I never will.

    But surely you would recognise that not everyone in receipt of housing benefit is so severely disabled, or even disabled at all. And, even assuming for one second that every single claimant does suffer that terribly, does each and every one have a right to live in a particularly expensive area?

    It will be difficult to persuade me that subsidising rents as high as £30-40k per year is fair. It’s not.

  22. Kevin Gulliver

    @johannhari101 See my @leftfootfwd blog touching on CHAVs & renewal of #socialhousing at

  23. Building social housing would cut the housing benefit bill three times faster than a cap | Left Foot Forward

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