Independent Tenants Movement Not Consumer Panels
There’s a long and rich history of independent tenants organisation in Britain stretching back one hundred years. Battles against rent rises and demands for security, the fight against the Housing Finance Act and Housing Action Trusts (HATs) prompted tenants to organise on a militant basis and co-ordinate their campaigns. In the 1970s and 80s active Tenants Federations sprung up around the UK to co-ordinate Tenants Associations within a local authority area which in turn sent delegates to national meetings and debates.
In the 1990s a whole new industry of ‘Tenant Participation’ was encouraged by government to wrestle control of tenant organisation. Under the guise of ‘empowerment’ tenants organisations were sanitised and new forums and panels created. Instead of open debate they want to give us tenant directors gagged by confidentiality clauses and overcome with business plans, missions and visions. There’s a deliberate strategy to incorporate and sanitise tenants organisation. Some so-called ‘tenants leaders’ are easily flattered and end up spending more time with government officials than organising meetings with tenants. Now government is proposing to set up a national ‘consumer panel’; and saying that the regulator will only have to consult that panel and can ignore the rest of us! It’s not on.
But there are encouraging signs around the country of more tenants turning against this controlled Tenants Participation bandwagon. Again we’re starting to organise ourselves into the kind of independent tenants organisations that we’ll need to fight off the latest threats. If we are to succeed we’ll have to ignore the flattery and refuse the seductive offers of funding if conditions that restrict our democratic rights to organise and say what we want are attached. We expect and demand that, however we organise ourselves, our landlords hand over funds from our rents to finance our independent tenants movement, with no strings attached.