Labour's working groups at a standstill on housing
Two brainstorming groups instructed by the prime minister to boost Labour's grassroots involvement in housing policy have only met once between them in the past six months.
The housing manifesto group - designed to give MPs more influence over housing policy - has not met at all and has now been deferred.
Jon Trickett, MP for Hemsworth and chair of parliamentary pressure group Compass, was appointed to head it up but has had little involvement so far.
The other group, set up to address grassroots members' concerns after they defeated the government over its housing policy at successive party conferences, has only met once.
This group was formed more than two years ago but its work was bedevilled by delays. It had been due to wind down after it finally presented a housing policy report at the party conference last September, but was recommissioned after rebels again threatened to embarrass the Labour leadership at its 2007 conference.
Ann Black, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, said there had been problems with the working group because it had kept MPs in the dark.
'What I'm saying is with all those things, no one outside the inner circle knows anything so they're [the working groups] not working.'
Daniel Zeichner, a member of the grassroots members' housing sub group, said it had been productive despite only meeting once since the conference.
'You don't have to have lots of meetings all the time - there's lots of [housing] policy developments going on in the party as well,' he said. Events such as London's mayoral election were halting progress, he added.
The housing party manifesto group was launched by Gordon Brown last year as one of 14 themed committees. It was designed to widen the range of people involved in putting together the party's next manifesto (Inside Housing, 6 July 2007). A Labour Party spokesperson confirmed that it had been deferred.
'Given the progress being made on housing, the government bills being enacted and the establishment of a minister attending cabinet dedicated to the issue, it was felt that a separate housing manifesto group should be deferred,' he said.
'In the interim the local government manifesto group…addresses housing issues.' This would be a 'more elevated solution to those issues'.