Below is a letter we invite everyone to send to each of their three local councillors to press them to promote the campaign against the Housing and Planning Act, and to resist its implementation.
You can copy this letter as it is, or adapt it to refer to your own circumstances or your personal reasons for opposing these policies. You can also use it as a basis for speaking to your councillor face-to-face at one of their surgeries.
You can look up the names of your councillors and the dates, times and venues of their surgeries, on this page of the council website. It also gives postal addresses, email addresses and phone numbers, so use whichever method you find easiest. Some councillors may have suspended their surgeries until September, in which case we suggest you contact them by email or post as soon as possible and follow up with a visit when surgeries resume after the break.
You can also use the website https://www.writetothem.com/ to send your letter – and you might want to use this to write to your MP about the Housing Act as well.
Please share this action with your friends, neighbours and colleagues as widely as possible. If you belong to a political, faith, community, trade union or professional group or organisation, you might also want to write to the council leader Judith Blake as a group.
Remember when you write to your own councillor or MP you need to include your address so that they can see that you are in their ward or constituency, and say how you would like them to respond to you (eg by post or email).
Please note that many councillors are likely to try to “fob you off” by talking about how their hands are tied by central government policy and law, or with vague statements about plans they are making to “manage” the new policies. PLEASE DO NOT BE PUT OFF BY THIS. It is true that the policies are the fault of the Tory government, which is doing everything it can to starve local councils of resources and make it impossible for them to carry out their duties to the local people they represent. However, the more pressure councillors come under from local residents, the more chance they have of putting up meaningful resistance to these dangerous and unpopular policies. Many details of the Housing Act are yet to be worked out, and there is still a chance of making it unworkable if there is enough resistance from residents and concerned organisations.
Here is our suggested letter:
I am writing to you as a resident in your ward to express my concern about effects of the recent Housing and Planning Act, and to ask your support in opposing it (see below).
We are told that Leeds has a waiting list of around 25,000 households, and fast-rising street homelessness due largely to savage benefit cuts and the appallingly insecure conditions in the private rented sector. Lack of secure, decent affordable housing is a number one cause of stress, illness, mental health problems, family problems etc. It is obvious that a massive increase in council housing stock, with guaranteed affordable rents and security of tenure, would have huge economic, health, employment and other social benefits.
Instead, the Housing and Planning Act aims to force us to sell off desperately-needed stock as it comes empty, to pay for discounts on the Right-to Buy for Housing Association tenants. It will make it easier for council homes – public assets paid for over the years from tenants’ rents – to be handed over for “redevelopment” for private profit. Publicly-subsidised “Starter homes” to buy are set to replace genuinely affordable homes to rent. Social tenants are under attack from means-testing of rents, ending of permanent tenancies, and benefit cuts which will make it impossible for many to make their rent payments.
I am asking you as my councillor to campaign actively for Leeds City Council to adopt the following policies and actions:
The Council to give active support to a Leeds campaign against the provisions of the Housing and Planning Act. To do this alongside trade unions, tenants groups, housing workers and other concerned groups, and to seek to gain the active support and collaboration of other Local Authorities.
The Council to take steps to publicly affirm its support for such a campaign, and also to inform all Leeds residents of the full implications for Leeds of the Act and of benefit cuts potentially affecting people’s housing security. To do this by writing to all Leeds residents, taking a spread in the local press, using relevant websites and social media, and calling public meetings to share information and views of how these threats can be responded to.
The Council to pledge to continue to treat all new tenancies as secure tenancies instead of the 2 – 10 years suggested by the Act.
The Council to pledge not to seek details of tenants’ incomes to implement Pay-to Stay.
The Council to seek ways to refuse the sell-off of vacant council homes to private buyers and refuse the levy for the funding of Right-to-Buy subsidies. Also, to ensure that no individual group or estate of Council Houses are placed on the brownfield register with a view to facilitating demolition and redevelopment by private commercial interests.
The Council to pledge that no tenant will be evicted as a result of arrears due to benefit cuts, including but not confined to the “bedroom tax”, household benefit cap or the introduction of Universal Credit. Also, to ensure that supported and sheltered housing, refuges and hostels are protected against the proposed cap on Housing Benefit for these types of accommodation.
The Council to seek to ensure that all Leeds housing associations also abide by this policy and do not implement pay-to-stay, means-testing or insecure tenancies; also, that they do not make eviction threats against tenants in difficulties due to benefit cuts.
Thank-you in advance for your support, and I look forward to hearing from you as to progress on these issues.