YESTERDAY LABOUR’S FROME VALE COUNCILLOR, NICOLA BOWDEN-JONES DEFIED THE WHIP AND THE BULLIES IN HER PARTY TO VOTE AGAINST THE LABOUR BUDGET. HERE IS THE SPEECH SHE MADE, WHICH SHE HAS POSTED TO FACEBOOK:
Thank you Lord Mayor.When I was a child I watched war films with my Dad. I worried that if I faced the choice between following the pack whose collective actions were perilous to others, would my ethics be sufficient to enable me to stand alone. Today I test my own hypothesis.
So let’s get one thing straight, this Council rent freeze is nothing to do with coronavirus or helping people on low incomes. – Let’s be honest.
I’ve been at the Labour Group meetings where speaker after speaker supporting the freeze, starts by saying we shouldn’t raise rents in the run up to the election. Some don’t understand what a rent freeze means, rent is income, creating borrowing power, without which we restrict our ability to repair, regenerate, retrofit and build houses
Every four years they would ditch housing investment for votes. Do you know of any other business models where your 30 year plan is punctuated every 4 years by self-indulgence?
We are happy to put up council tax for the same people by 5%, yet apparently a 1.5% rent rise is too much for people to take even though the benefits system for both is the same. The report which went to cabinet, showed an enormous reduction in social rented housing. Because 30% of the future programme will now be shared ownershipA difficult decision for some members of the cabinet.
Difficult for Helen Godwin as cutting the social rented housing programme means, she is voting today to leave families in temporary accommodation for longer, we know they can’t afford shared ownership.
Difficult for Nicola Beech our staunch advocate for strong planning policy, she is voting for a form of shared ownership which doesn’t meet the planning department’s definition of affordable.
Difficult for Afzal Shah, because he is voting to take over £100m from the spending power of the housing department when there is a bill of £500m to retrofit homes to meet our carbon reduction target.
Difficult for cabinet members who have lived in council housing to remove an opportunity for those who now have that same need for a home -they once had.
Difficult for some of my colleagues who have been told they will not be able to stand in the May election if they vote to save our council housing.
Difficult to look at the finances and say there is an underspend. COVID means thousands of repairs have not been completed, or even reported. Have those repairs now disappeared with the vaccinations? Did we have a vaccination that made the damp, or broken windows, or leaking roofs disappear?
The money is only there because the repairs have not been done.
We must ask ourselves when will we be told that the challenges we have in sustaining council housing can only be solved by public private partnerships, public -private partnership read privatisation?
We should not put votes before ensuring our tenants have warm, safe and well maintained homes.
We should not put a headline on a leaflet or a tweet, before building social rented, yes social rented not shared ownership, homes for the thousands of families in temporary accommodation or insecure, expensive private lettings.
Actually it’s not difficult. There are a thousand children in our city in temporary accommodation. The choice today is clear, vote for their future, the future that many years ago someone was brave enough to give you. The future of our cities council housing and not its decay.