Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Council House Sales Thirty Years On

Peter King at Conservative Home, has a laudatory article on the sale of council houses thirty years after it was implemented. He thinks it was great idea. I beg to differ

The provision of low-cost social housing was one of the triumphs of the post-war political consensus, supported by both left and right. I know, I benefitted , and so did millions of others. I was born in an 18th century terraced house which was cramped, damp and had outside toilets. Within 6 months we had moved to a new post-war prefab, not perfect but, my mother tells me, a thousand times better than what we had. The old slums were cleared away and hundreds of decent homes built in their place. This policy was initiated by Labour and enthusiastically taken up by the Churchill Government of 1951 and succeeding Tory administrations .

Mrs Thatcher decided that this socially beneficial policy, taking people from slums and unsuitable and insecure privately rented housess, and putting them in warm, clean and well appointed homes, was a plot to keep council tenants voting Labour. I suppose the thought that you can have a policy which is a good thing in and of itself was beyond her moral frontier.

On CH, Peter King says "I would suggest that this has been the most successful piece of social policy since the Second World War."

A little aside, Isn't it funny how, when Labour does these things it's "social engineering", but with the Tories it somehow becomes "social policy"......


Mrs Thacher's decision to sell off council houses was a piece of social engineering designed to encourage council house tenants to vote Tory. And the observations on the conservativehome website - that it would have been pefect if only the money could have been recycled to building more social housing - completely misunderstands its purpose. It was never meant to provide houses for those who needed them, it was designed to break up Labour wards and get Tory votes. And it succeeded.

One result is that more people own their homes.

Another result is that more people have been homeless over the past 30 years, and more families now live in unsuitable rented accommodation than is necessary in an advanced democracy.

On balance it has been an  malignant policy with the outcomes including a few winners, more losers and a nastier, less caring, society.

But then Mrs Thatcher didn't believe that there was any such thing as society, so what more could we expect from her or her party?

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