Council Housing

The Times - 03 Sep 2018

Sir, Dr Ian McKee is wrong about my wish for the government to sell council houses (“Corbyn and the charge of antisemitism”, letter, Sept 1). Far from harming the poor, my proposal specifically aimed at helping the poorest. Dr McKee fails to recall the status of serfs to which many tenants were subjected by bureaucratic councils. My proposal (“Who needs council housing?” in 1975) stated that the best council housing almost never became available for reallocation, as tenants stayed put and children inherited tenancy rights. “How could these frozen assets be used to the advantage of the poor?” was my question.

My plan was to sell dear, with the whole of a working-class family clubbing together to acquire an asset and, crucially, for councils to use all those monies to rebuild and repair stock. The Wilson and Callaghan governments undertook reviews of this idea but civil servants thought the plan unworkable.

I wished to increase the supply of social housing at no cost to taxpayers, so helping the poor while strengthening skilled working-class loyalty to the Labour Party — they would see us as liberators as they began owning their own homes.

After Labour refused to act, Mrs Thatcher came along and turned the idea on its head: sold cheaply, cut taxes, and the rest is history, but not as Dr McKee writes.

Frank Field, MP
House of Commons, London