Sunday, 4 December 2016

Municipal Dreams must hear podcast about council housing

I am, at heart, a municipal socialist. I believe that local government is responsible, both historically and in terms of provision, for almost everything we like about public service. Centralising post-war governments since 1945 have been progressively weakening local government at every opportunity and council housing is a prime example of this fact.

A view of the now demolished Lenton flats from Church Square, which I knew well during the 35 years we lived in Lenton. In 2006, I received a £5,000 grant fro The Guardian, which I doubled to £10,000 with the help of local charities and Nottingham City Council. It is one the most enjoyable things I have ever done. I persuaded The Guardian to let me give the money away without paperwork in amounts up £500 to people living in Lenton Flats or involved in some way. Some of the projects started during the year I ran the project were still going when we left Lenton at the end of 2014. The five high-rise blocks were popular until the day the last one came down, because of their location. Nottingham City Council has replaced them with new council housing, including a scheme for flat residents who did not want to leave Lenton. It is a development the City Council can be proud of and is a great example of why council housing has a future. 

Council housing is a topic I have referred to on several occasions in the two years I have been doing this blog. Here is a link to a post about the history of Nottingham council housing.

The local historian in me ranks local authority housing above the NHS when it comes to the contribution it has made to public health and wellbeing, nor does the Labour Party 'own' these issues. Like it or not, it is a heritage it has to share with Liberals and progressive Conservatives. Once upon time the municipal ownership of transport and utilities was a shared vision, as was the provision of healthcare and housing for those who could not afford to buy their own home.

One of my favourite blogs is Municipal Dreams by the social historian John Boughton. His latest post links to a 50 minute interview he had on the Londonist radio station. For anyone interested in council/public housing this is really a 'must listen to' podcast. Whilst the focus is on council housing in London, John talks about council housing in a way which makes what he says relevant to listeners wherever they live in England.

If you would like to learn more about the history of council housing, you can buy the Historical Association booklet Local Authority Housing: Origins and development by Colin Pooley from Amazon. Before Susan and me retired in 2006 we published Local History Magazine and got hold of HA copies of the book when they decided to stop selling it. We've been selling the occasional copy on online ever since for £2.50 plus £2.80 p&p. It is a useful starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about council housing and its history.

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