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(en) Freedom 6320 19th Oct. 2002 - Underhand privatisation

From FreedomCopy@aol.com
Date Mon, 28 Oct 2002 04:37:18 -0500 (EST)


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During the 1980s and early 1990s, many large council estates hit
the headlines as working class anger and frustration exploded at
the conditions residents were forced to endure. Among the causes
of resentment were substandard, crumbling blocks, unemployment
and the overbearing presence of the state in the form of the police.
With the election of Blair and his cohorts in 1997, some misguided
people imagined a brighter future for people living on these estates.
They expected a quick end to council house sales and some
much-needed regeneration. The reality, though, was very different.
It was five years before New Labour tackled the problem of council
house sales and the 'solution', when it finally came, was a sham.
The privatisation of council housing hurries on apace, although (in
typical New Labour style) it's done in an underhand way. Local
authorities which have housing stock left are still busy privatising it
by transferring control to private housing companies. Tenants on
the estates are targeted and sold the idea of better repair services,
improved living conditions and temporary rent freezes. This is done
with a combination of glossy, often misleading, leaflets and
'consultation' meetings.
These meetings are less about genuine community involvement
and more about conning desperate residents into signing up with
private landlords by the promise of huge financial investment and a
'new dawn' for any estate involved.
A prime example of this is Speke, a large estate on the eastern
fringe of Liverpool. Once described by Lib Dem politician Paddy
Ashdown as "worse than Bosnia", and by the present government
as the second most deprived estate in the country, it was privatised
in 1999. Control of the estate was handed over to South Liverpool
Housing (SLH), a private company which promised £100 million
of investment in the area. Three years on, many tenants are now
realising only too well what lies they were told. Housing repairs
continue to be dismal and piecemeal. Hotchpotch maintenance,
with no lasting benefits for tenants, are the norm so that SLH can
fiddle its performance figures.
Community regeneration has become a standing joke amongst
residents, as parts of Speke remain in ruins. Where repairs have
been undertaken, tenants are expected to accept only what SLH
offers. Any element of choice they might want is ignored, as
they're expected to bow down to uniform solutions to their needs.
One elderly tenant, who wanted clear glass instead of the smoked
glass window replacements she was offered, says "it's all been a
con. They held a gun to our heads, saying we'd lose this money if
we didn't transfer. They're my landlords, but now they say I'd have
to pay £1,000 for my windows to be repaired."
Mathew Gardiner, paid £70,000 per year as SLH chief executive,
tries to put a good spin the company's appalling record by pointing
to last year's lottery bid to fund a community youth centre and
meeting place. Well, that makes everything fine and dandy then,
doesn't it? The site for this centre, right next door to the local
police station, wasn't exactly popular for a start.
The experience of people living in Speke is, unfortunately, a
familiar scene in working class communities across the country.
And yet, despite all the problems, many people still want to live
there. Politicians try to wish away working class solidarity, but
people still like to live close to families and friends. At present, the
waiting list for flats and houses in the area runs into the hundreds.
Barney Rubbleen




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