This conference recognises that 18 years of Tory government has left a legacy of homelessness, overcrowded housing and disrepair and a shortage of affordable homes for rent.
Conference recognises that the lack of adequate housing that results from under investment gives rise to poor health, greater demands on social services, under achievement in schools and also has an effect on the crime rate.
This conference believes that good-quality, safe housing is a basic human right. Conference deplores the fact that a large number of our fellow citizens are still living in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions of great disrepair.
Conference recognises that homelessness, poor housing and shortage of social housing is not just a problem in our towns and cities, but also a major problem in the rural areas of Britain.
Conference congratulates the new Labour Government on the tremendous start made in changing Britain for the better and welcomes the government's commitment to a phased release of the money from council house sales.
This bold initiative will allow councils to begin addressing Britain's housing crisis which, under the previous government, saw new-build and housing refurbishment slump to the lowest level for 50 years. Nearly 1.5 million houses are currently considered unfit for human habitation and construction of new social rented homes has plummeted to 40,000 a year in the 1990's. The Labour Government's reform of the housing investment programme to allow resource allocation to be based on housing need rather than on a purely discretionary basis is also to be welcomed.
The release of capital receipts will enable the problem of homelessness to be tackled and local government to have a genuine impact improving the lifestyle of ordinary people with the provision of quality, reasonably priced accommodation and affordable environmentally friendly heating systems to people on low incomes; and provide jobs, training and skills to the unemployed and an economic boost to the construction industry which has suffered under Conservative recessions.
Conference also urges the government to explore new methods of public/private partnership and to consider accountancy conventions to further increase investment in social housing.
Conference recognises the valuable contribution housing regeneration makes to the economic and social development of local communities and of society in general. Ways should be found of developing new partnership approaches to housing with a view to maximising new build. This will act as a spur to related industries, increasing opportunities for training and employment in the wider economy. Necessary training geared to the expansion of the building industry should be targeted at young people, who have been the most conspicuous group disadvantaged by Tory labour market policies.
Conference believes Labour's welfare to work package funded by the windfall levy can open up opportunities to young people and also help to reduce homelessness.
Conference unreservedly condemns the abuse of workers' rights and conditions which has mushroomed in the building industry during the last 18 years of Tory rule. It calls upon the government to work with Labour local authorities and UCATT to restore acceptable working conditions to all those employed in the construction industries and ensure that when the capital receipts from the sale of council houses are released to fund future building projects that the contracts are only awarded to construction companies which provide acceptable rights and working conditions for their employees.
Conference recognises that local authorities have a key role to play in the provision and maintenance of affordable, social housing. In addition, council direct service organisations and direct labour organisations are unique in their abilities to provide vital quality services to the community while simultaneously tackling economic and social exclusion in the community and providing quality employment.
Conference therefore urges the Labour Government to examine measures which could promote direct service provision while maintaining accountability, quality delivery and fiscal responsibility. In the field of housing, council DLOs have continually proven their cost-effectiveness under the compulsory competitive tendering regime. Given an appropriate new legislative framework, DLOs could once again build the housing Britain so desperately needs and, at the same time, provide quality jobs and training for local people.
Conference therefore requests the government to consider the following proposals which could enhance efficient and accountable direct service provison:
a. reform of the Local Authority (Goods & Services) Act 1970 to allow local authorities the right to trade and thereby to participate in the regeneration of local communities;
b. a review of legislation governing contract compliance for the purpose of examining measures to promote quality employment, equal opportunities and skills training.
Local authorities are struggling with the problems of dilapidated stock and shrinking resources at a time when they are faced with increasing demands due to community care legislation.
Care in the community is now part of a caring society and is to be welcomed. Local authority houses specially built or adapted for elderly and disabled people play a major part in ensuring that the necessary support can be available.
New build accommodation should take account of the changing composition and needs of households, in particular the needs of young people, elderly people and all those who fall under the remit of community care. Thus, the government can move towards the ultimate objective of the provision of suitable accommodation for all.
Conference urges the government to ensure proper standards, and tenants rights in both social and private rented sectors and to crack down on housing benefit fraud.
This conference notes with concern that Conservative legislation has led to increasing homelessness.
Conference calls on the Labour Government to review housing benefit for single room rent for single people in view of the hardship suffered by young people.
Seconded by: East Lothian CLP