FORMER housing minister John ‘I’m looking into it’ Healey is full of open palms and hunched shoulders in photos in this week’s South London Press (pg 8 – go buy a copy) as he condemns the coalition government for putting decent homes funding at risk. The headline to the piece is: It is not acceptable that this money may be withdrawn.
The potted history has it that money was promised to Lambeth if it set up an Arms-Length Management Organisation – that rigid Labour policy of shipping control of council homes out of Town Hall management. Now, the money to Lambeth Living – the Almo – could be a victim of spending cuts, it is claimed, leaving tenants with familiar complaints of crumbling homes.
The headline is of course is right. People shouldn’t be made to live in rotting homes like the ones described on the Valley Road Estate in Streatham. It is not acceptable.
But as Mr Healey’s new leader, Ed Miliband, has finally admitted on behalf of the Labour Party, it was just as unacceptable for “tin-ear” Labour to withhold much-needed money to councils like Camden, just because it refused to get on the Almo carousel.
On Mr Healey’s tour in front of the SLP’s cameras was Sir Keith Hill, another former housing minister who became the figurehead among tenants for the obstinate stance taken towards Camden at Whitehall. Those two no doubt have had many long chats. I wonder if they have ever shared their thoughts on how Labour’s honourable idea to invest in and improve millions of council properties across the country in 1997 descended into such controversy. The bullying overshadowed what should have been a worthy achievement.