Unions step up fight against Glasgow stock transfer

Trade unions throughout Scotland have pledged to fight the
proposed transfer of council owned housing stock to independent
groups, the Scottish Trades Union Congress and Unison announced,
writes Reg McKay.

In a joint press conference with the largest local government
union, Unison, Bill Speirs, general secretary of the STUC, said:
“The STUC has voted unanimously to oppose the transfer of housing
stock. We will work hard with tenants groups to inform people fully
of all the implications, and will stand alongside them in opposing
the government’s plans.”

According to the unions, transfer of housing stock will result
in increased rents, more people on housing benefit, less houses and
poorer quality services for the more vulnerable like homeless
people. Malcolm Wing, national secretary of Unison’s local
government group, said: “We can see from experience in England that
private sector lenders are forcing mergers and take-overs onto
local community-based housing associations. This leads to further
removal of housing from local control.”

The unions questioned “the one sided propaganda campaign” in
informing Glasgow tenants of the positives of stock transfer while
failing to advise them of the negatives. Speirs said: “How much
public money have the Scottish executive, Glasgow Housing
Association and Glasgow Council spent on their publicity campaign
geared to convince tenants to vote in favour of transfer? In a
similar situation in Birmingham the figure was £13

The unions announcement came the day after the Treasury advised
that it was willing to pay off the housing debts of several
Scottish councils, including Glasgow Council which owes £900
million with annual interest fees of £50 million, but only if
they agreed to transfer the housing stock.

Wing accused the government of blackmail and said: “What sort of
ballot of tenants is that? Vote yes and we will give you resources
– vote no and you get nothing. You can hardly blame tenants
for voting for what they see as short-term benefits. Why
don’t the government pay off housing debt with no conditions

Colin Meech, policy officer with Unison, estimated that 30,000
of Glasgow’s 81,000 houses will be demolished. Meech added:
“Considering Glasgow’s repair bill of £1.2 billion
pounds and the number of tenants being almost halved, rents will
inevitably rise catching more and more people on housing

The unions say that the experience in England has indicated
reduced services for homeless people. Meech said: “The
responsibility for homelessness will stay with local authorities
who are then obliged to purchase accommodation from housing
services. Experience so far indicates this does not work, with
Shelter’s research showing that where stock has been
transferred almost half of homeless people have received fewer
services and of poorer quality.”

Tenants in Glasgow are due to vote on the proposed transfer of
housing stock in November. Speirs said: “We hope that no ballot
will take place. If it does we will fight alongside local people
and tenants groups to prevent the wholesale transfer of housing
from local government.”




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