Friday, December 16, 2005


From: Glasgow

From: Glasgow "Save Our Homes"
Glasgow Tenants Send warmest congratulations to EAST and all the Edinburgh Tenants who voted NO on an awesome victory over the Council Housing privateers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Home Truths - Why Many Are Still Fighting The Move

he Glasgow Housing Association website offers a tantalising glimpse of a bright new future. An old man, his tartan clad Scotty dog by his side, smiles underneath a happy quote about his brand new kitchen. The casual viewer would come away with the impression that social housing is surging forward unhindered into a brave new world.

They would be wrong. In 2002, Scotland's largest city transferred ownership of its 80,000 council houses to the private, but not-for-profit, social landlord the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA). The ambitious project was the biggest of its kind in Europe but the process, known as stock transfer, has been mired in controversy. As Edinburgh tenants await the result of their own transfer ballot, those against the move are again claiming tenants were lied to, blackmailed and fed false promises by a multi-million pound government spin machine. They say transfer has created "social apartheid" in Glasgow where the homes of the few are transformed while thousands are "left to rot" in their multi-storey flats.

On December 15, Edinburgh's council leaders and housing officials will discover whether the capital's tenants will follow their west coast counterparts. A fierce, often bitter and vindictive argument has preceded the vote. Both the Scottish Executive and Westminster believe that stock transfer is the only way social housing will meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard - the benchmark that all homes must reach by 2015. The pro-transfer lobby have tapped into a war chest of around £8.5 million to sell the move in its best light while the anti-transfer campaigners, armed only with a fraction of the money, have done the best they can with leaflets and rallies. Despite senior politicians hailing the ballots as good examples of local democracy, the Executive has only funded one side of the fight.

"You've got this situation where David and Goliath are fighting against each other. The vote was won narrowly in Glasgow and now tenants have been left with a complete mess," says Jenni Marrow, executive member of the Scottish Tenants Organisation and a leading figure in the anti-transfer campaign.

The battle is not just a central belt spat; it is being fought out across Scotland. Aside from Glasgow, the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway councils have transferred their homes. The Western Isles council also voted for transfer in a recent ballot. However, Dundee and Aberdeen councils have resisted the proposals, on the basis that "there is no evidence of any obvious demand for full stock transfer or a change of landlord". Stock transfer is a policy cooked up in Westminster by Gordon Brown, and promoted across Scotland by the Executive. The thinking behind it is simple. Scottish councils — burdened with over £200 billion of debt from building and maintaining publicly-owned homes - transfer the houses to a private sector housing association. The treasury writes off the debt and the new not-for-profit housing body raises cash from banks, financial companies and rent to build and maintain new homes. Any profits made are ploughed back into new stock.

Sandra Forsythe, Tenant Chair of GHA, says it has taken time for Glasgow tenants to see the real benefits of transfer, but she claims they are now coming home to roost. "When people see the windows being done, heating getting put in, they start to see what it was all about. It was always going to be a case of 'we'll believe it when we see it' and now the place is buzzing and excited. I'm certainly happier in my home and warmer. I don't miss the waterfall that used to come in my window." Sheila Gilmore, Edinburgh City Council's executive member for housing, says transfer is the best of a limited number of options open to Edinburgh council's 23,000 tenants. Housing debts are so bad, she explains, that 41 pence in every pound of rent paid by tenants is spent servicing the debt, not on renovation or maintenance. The net result: only basic repairs have been carried out over the last 10 years and there is no money to tackle Edinburgh's chronic housing shortage. Gilmore believes the city needs 10,000 new homes and transfer is the only way to get them.

We didn't wake up one morning and decide to do this. We have been looking very hard at all the options. But when I have people come to me and say, 'why can't we have a house in Edinburgh?', 'can we have a bigger home to give our children more space?' or 'why can't my gran get a ground floor flat?' - in that case an ideological argument doesn't cut any ice," she says.

Gilmore says Edinburgh faces a stark choice between transfer and rapidly escalating rents. She is supported byjacqui Watt, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA). "The city is 10,000 houses short and we have to do something radical to provide for the future," she says. Although many housing professionals support transfer as the only realistic way forward for Scotland's social housing, many privately question the political conditions that have created the necessity for the policy. Despite the not-for-profit nature of housing associations, anti-transfer campaigners say moving homes out of the public sector is simply privatisation, designed to give banks and businesses the leverage to make money from tenants.

Several Scottish housing professionals argue that chancellor Brown could have cancelled all the council's housing debt, but refused to do so for political reasons. New Labour, it is claimed, has no confidence in local government to do the job. This is a conclusion backed up by a call to the Treasury, where a spokesman says: "The UK government believes that to repay all local authority housing debt would send the wrong signals to authorities about their responsibility for servicing any future borrowings." Translated into plain speech: you've made your bed, now lie in it. We're only going to help you if you do what we think is best.

Sean Clerkin, campaign manager for the Scottish Tenants Organisation, says the 'best' option -according to New Labour in Westminster and Holyrood — has created a situation where "half the tenants are getting improvements and others have had no improvements of any kind". He says thousands are "left in limbo" because they live in homes under review for demolition. The number of homes, especially multi-storey tower block flats, scheduled to be pulled down in Glasgow has almost doubled from the number proposed before the transfer.

lain Maclnnes, a Glasgow Govanhill tenant, who campaigned against stock transfer, is even more forthright:"They are being left to rot. They don't want to spend money on buildings that will come down. Glasgow Housing Association is an inhumane landlord guilty of antisocial behaviour." GHA deny this allegation and say they have put £8m aside to carry out basic repairs on homes due for demolition. But the fact of the matter is that many tower blocks are under review. Effectively, their tenants are kept in the dark; getting by on whispers, never really knowing whether their home will be pulled down — a difficult thing to deal with for the often elderly and vulnerable tenants. However, no matter what the shortfalls of stock transfer, the governments at Westminster and Holyrood believe it is the only way that social housing will meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard.

Stock transfer may not be universally popular but in the current political climate many believe it is the best option on the table. Gilmore points to Birmingham where a stock transfer ballot resulted in a no vote. Campaigners hoped this would force a change of direction from central government, but they were wrong, Birmingham's local authority has been left to struggle on with massive debts. Gilmore, especially, says "she can't talk ideology with somebody who is desperate for a home when there is a solution sitting there". But whether that solution will lead to a bright future of new kitchens and happy Scotty dogs, or more vulnerable people forced into the margins, confused and uncertain, is a real and worrying question.

Agnes Ferguson, 68, from Sighthill, has lived in her flat since 1988. It has now come under the ownership of Glasgow Housing Association and she is unsure when it is due for demolition "I voted against transfer. I didn't really want it, but what can you do? We were promised new kitchens and bathrooms and then we heard the block might be coming down and today I'm none the wiser.

"I'm like any other woman, I like to be able to change my mind, but just now I don't know where I stand. I'd like to do some more decorating but there's no point if they pull the place down. I just don't know. All I know is we are under review for demolition and we'll find out for definite later on.

"You hear so many rumours you don't know who is telling the truth and who's not. I really don't want to leave this wee house - it's comfortable and I've put a lot of work into it. The only thing I'm annoyed with is the size of the kitchen - it's far too small.

"There are a lot of people who have been here 40 years. No matter where else I decide to go, my nice carpets aren't going to fit. I've got no faith in the politicians. They make promises to you and they don't keep them. Personally I would rather stay where I am until the good lord takes me."
Sourse:Peter John Meiklem. Big Issue

Thursday, December 01, 2005



Seasons Greetings to You All This will be Last meeting for this year of 2005.
the Quakers Meeting Place 38 Elmbank Crescent, Glasgow G2 4PS 0141 248 8493
Agenda includes:
Feedback from EAST + the Law is an Ass (John)
Updates and Media Reports (Sean)
Combating Eviction (Iain)
GHA Ltd. / Scottish Executive’s Breach of EU Law
Monitoring Concierge Deal
No Care & Very Low Maintenance
Add your concerns / points for discussion

Contact agahst2003 (at)

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