Tenancy for life ban seen as 'dead parrot'
New housing minister Margaret Beckett is against scrapping tenancies for life and said the idea is ‘going nowhere’, the Labour Party treasurer has said.
Jack Dromey, who is also deputy general security of union Unite, told a Defend Council Housing conference that Mrs Beckett believes the proposal is a ‘dead parrot’.
‘The argument is that council housing ought simply to be for the needy, and if you have better-off tenants what we ought to do is pick them out and move to fixed-term tenancy. What complete nonsense,’ he said.
‘I said to Margaret Beckett, who I have known for years, this is nonsense and we need to bury it.’
Mr Dromey said Mrs Beckett was attending a Labour party meeting he was chairing, and he told her he was going to be ‘very robust’ against the idea.
‘She said “be as robust as you can”. She said “this idea is going nowhere”,’ he added.
Camden MP Frank Dobson also told the conference he believed Mrs Beckett would reject moves to end secure tenancies.
‘I think we have got an opportunity, particularly with Margaret Beckett, to make sure that the idea is formally abandoned and denounced by everyone who is sane,’ he said.
The economic downturn could also mean councils will be allowed and encouraged to build more homes, which would solve the demand for social housing without evicting existing tenants, Mr Dobson said: ‘With [Mrs Beckett] and with the economic circumstances there is a real chance for us to push through some successful policies on council housing.’
Tenancy for life timeline - how the controversy developed:
The Chartered Institute of Housing publishes a wide-ranging paper, Rethinking Housing, setting out its views on the government’s housing reform programme ahead of a green paper which is now expected in the new year.
It includes a section on ‘flexible tenure and housing review’. This includes the passage:
‘We propose moving towards a system of flexible tenure in which all new lets can be reviewed after set period of time. This would represent a fundamental shift away from the majority of current lets that provide a largely static tenancy for life.’
It goes on:
‘If individual’s circumstances have improved, and have changed in a sustained way, we would suggest that it is right and fair that there is a menu of options to choose from, but that the existing terms and conditions are not an option’
The suggested options include:
- advice about low-cost home ownership
- advice about private renting
- advice about full ownership
- a change in tenancy conditions, such as a rent increase towards market level.
CIH publishes an open letter to tenants clarifying its proposals. It states:
‘To be clear - our paper doesn’t call for the end of security of tenure, or for people to be evicted if they start work – or for housing officers to be able to force people into a job or a shared ownership house against their will – and any changes that were made would apply only to future tenancies and not to any already in place.
‘It does suggest that tenants should meet with their landlord to discuss their tenancy (perhaps every few years) but our key point is really nothing to do with security of tenure at all – it’s actually about our role as housing professionals in doing what we can to improve opportunities for people – in making sure that social housing is a force for good and doesn’t end up trapping people in poverty.’
The Times newspaper reports that housing minister Margaret Beckett is considering implementing proposals similar to those put forward by the CIH. The story is covered widely in the media.
Mrs Beckett denies any decision has been made on tenancy for life. She tells a seminar organised by think tank The Smith Institute: ‘I’ve made no decision and nor has any minister, on the content and timing of the green paper. The timing depends on how I feel the work of the content is going, which will drive the timing, rather than the other way round.’
However, she adds: ‘If people could find greater stability and security in the private rented sector, or could take advantage of low cost home ownership, then maybe fewer would think that social housing was their only option.’
Labour Party treasurer Jack Dromey tells a Defend Council Housing conference that Mrs Beckett is set against the idea of reducing security of tenure. He tells delegates that she considers the idea a ‘dead parrot’ and it is ‘going nowhere’.