Paul Couchman, TUSC candidate in Staines ward
I am standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the Staines ward by-election for Spelthorne Council.
Spelthorne has over 2,500 families on its housing waiting list. Many of these are living in poor, cramped and unfit conditions, desperately waiting – often for years – for the offer of a space to call home.
A report by Get Surrey showed that a family would need combined earnings of well over £100,000 a year to get a mortgage on the average house in the borough. How many local residents earn anywhere near that amount?
There is a whole generation of young families in Spelthorne who cannot afford to live here. Only 300 new homes have been built each year since 2016, and very few of these have been ‘affordable’ – 12.3% in 2016, 3.1% in 2017, and only 1.9% in 2018.
And what do they mean by ‘affordable’? The government’s definition is no more than 80% of the average local market rent.
The council is talking about its ‘Spelthorne Plan’ – which consists of a few high-rise blocks of more posh apartments. The Greens are actually demanding that the council builds fewer homes, after they did a deal with the Lib Dems on the council. The ‘Independents’ (ex-Tory and ex-Ukip) are just complaining about the skyline – ie ‘not in my backyard’.
No one on the council, apart from two independent Labour councillors, is talking about what is really needed – a mass programme of publicly owned council house building, and a cap on the rents charged by private landlords.
When I was growing up, we always had somewhere safe and secure to live – a council house. They weren’t always well maintained by local councils, but mostly lovingly looked after by residents.
These were the first steps into independence for most young families. These have nearly all now been sold or turned over to housing associations – in Spelthorne to A2 Dominion.
Spelthorne Council has the power and the resources to build hundreds of good-quality, environmentally sustainable, carbon-neutral, family homes. The work should be done in-house with quality controls, taking on local builders and apprentices on trade union terms and rates of pay.
There are masses of brownfield sites and ex-office blocks which could be turned over to council housing. The Socialist Party says that it’s only the political will of the current councillors that is missing. We need the voice of the working class to be heard in the council chamber.