Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 45 Number 8, April 4, 2015 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Congratulations to Charlotte Monro!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Congratulations to Charlotte Monro!
Message from the Campaign to Reinstate Charlotte Monro
Reinstatement -Charlotte Monro’s Personal Statement
Barts Health and Charlotte Monro - A joint statement, March 31, 2015
Charlotte Monro’s Employment Tribunal
What Is Just Is Just

Packed Rally to Save Our Health Service

The Right to Housing Is an Election Issue

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Congratulations to Charlotte Monro!

Charlotte Monro (5th from left, back row), with some of the supporters of the Reinstate
Charlotte Campaign outside Anchorage House, where the Employment Tribunal was held

Charlotte Monro, who was a Unison rep at Whipps Cross Hospital, sacked by the Barts Health Trust, is to be reinstated after a two-year battle.

Charlotte Monro was dismissed from her role at the hospital in 2013 after 26 years, after Barts Health Trust said she failed to disclose criminal convictions relating to historic political activism. Ms Monro challenged the dismissal at an Employment Tribunal, asserting that she was sacked after raising concerns about care at the hospital. The Trust is now in special measures after widespread failings in care standards and a culture of bullying at Whipps were identified by Care Quality Commission inspectors.

Barts Health Trust has now backed down ahead of the Tribunal’s giving its ruling and Charlotte will now return to her role as a moving and handling co-ordinator.

Charlotte Monro addressing a meeting at
BMA House on the right to speak out
In a statement, Ms Monro said, “I am really happy to be returning to work with my team and the rest of the staff at Whipps Cross Hospital, and Barts Health NHS Trust, and I look forward to being able to contribute to the work I understand is now under way, in response to the CQC report, to bring about improvement in our hospital. It’s vital that Whipps Cross becomes again a hospital of choice for health staff to work in.”

Ms Monro insisted staff must feel free to raise concerns, saying, “Health staff must be able to speak out for their patients and services without fear. They must be free to organise themselves in trade unions and stand as representatives knowing that their rights as a union rep will be respected, and that the role of an independent union campaigning for the interests of the staff, their patients and services is also respected.”

She continued, “These were issues at the heart of my case. Its resolution will I hope contribute to building a climate of openness and confidence so needed in our health service.”

Ms Monro thanked Unison and her legal team for their support, stating she had been “moved and inspired” by colleagues, health campaigners and fellow trade unionists.

In a statement, Barts Health Trust said, “Charlotte will be returning in the very near future, working three days a week as a moving and handling co-ordinator, following a period of re-training. The Trust and Charlotte have also reached confidential terms of agreement in respect of her Employment Tribunal claim. Charlotte deeply appreciates the thorough exploration of the issues in an objective light that the Tribunal has enabled.”

Barts has also agreed to remove all disciplinary notes from Ms Monro’s records.

“The Trust values Charlotte’s long professional contribution over many years to standards of patient care and to patient and staff safety,” the statement added.

WWIE adds its heartfelt congratulations to the very many voices which are overjoyed that Charlotte Monro is to be reinstated. The result has demonstrated that it is in the fight for what is just, relying on the collective, that an outcome and a way forward that favours working people is to be found. That Charlotte Monro has taken this course and maintained a principled stand throughout, bringing the people’s forces into play and leading by example, is a tremendous model which can be utilised in the building of the Workers’ Opposition. It is a powerful blow against the dictate and wrecking agenda of those in authority who imagine the people’s forces and the rights of the working class and people are of no consequence.

Congratulations to Charlotte Monro and to all who have worked so hard for this result!

Article Index


Message from the Campaign to Reinstate Charlotte Monro

Rally outside the Tribunal

Dear Friends

We have had wonderful news. Charlotte has been reinstated and will return to work in Whipps Cross Hospital. Following the tribunal hearing Barts Health NHS Trust invited her to return. This is a vindication of Charlotte and the stand we all have taken.

Your support has been a very significant factor in this campaign and its success. Thank you all so much. As Charlotte says in her personal statement below: “Together we are standing up for what we believe in and this has made all the difference.”

Reinstate Charlotte Campaign

Article Index



Charlotte Monro’s Personal Statement

I am really happy to be returning to work with my team and the rest of the staff at Whipps Cross Hospital, and Barts Health NHS Trust. And I look forward to being able to contribute to the work I understand is now under way, in response to the CQC report, to bring about improvement in our hospital. It’s vital that Whipps Cross becomes again a hospital of choice for health staff to work in, where they can provide the best standards of health care to our local population, and find a good future.

Health staff must be able to speak out for their patients and services without fear. They must be free to organise themselves in trade unions and stand as representatives knowing that their rights as a union rep will be respected, and that the role of an independent union campaigning for the interests of the staff, their patients and services is also respected. These were issues at the heart of my case. Its resolution will I hope contribute to building a climate of openness and confidence so needed in our health service.

I want to thank my union UNISON for its backing and support in taking my case to tribunal, and to thank our highly committed legal team. I have been moved and inspired by the support from colleagues, from health campaigners and fellow trade unionists, and so many other people. It has held me up through some pretty difficult times and brought home that the issues I faced have far wider significance for people.

 Together we are standing up for what we believe in and this has made all the difference. Let’s continue to do so for the future of our NHS.

March 31, 2015

Article Index


Barts Health and Charlotte Monro

A joint statement, March 31, 2015

Barts Health NHS Trust is pleased to confirm that it has invited Charlotte Monro to return to employment at Whipps Cross Hospital and that Charlotte has accepted the Trust’s invitation.

Charlotte will be returning in the very near future, working three days a week as a moving and handling co-ordinator, following a period of re-training.

The Trust and Charlotte have also reached confidential terms of agreement in respect of her Employment Tribunal claim. The Trust has valued the discussion of issues during the Employment Tribunal process. Charlotte deeply appreciates the thorough exploration of the issues in an objective light that the Tribunal has enabled. The Trust confirms that, as part of Charlotte’s return, it will for all purposes in the future, be removing reference from Charlotte’s employment record with the Trust, the disciplinary matters which were the subject of an internal process against Charlotte and which were then reviewed by the Employment Tribunal. This will allow Charlotte and the Trust to move forward fully, from what we acknowledge has been a difficult process for all concerned, above all for Charlotte herself.

Following the recent publication of the Care Quality Commission inspection report into Whipps Cross Hospital, an Improvement Board has been put in place to address all the concerns raised by the CQC. Charlotte Monro is an energetic and committed campaigner on patient care issues in the NHS, and the Trust welcomes the contribution which Charlotte will undoubtedly be able to make to the discussion about ensuring Whipps Cross’s future. Members of the Trust’s Executive will be meeting with Charlotte, Unison Regional Officer Derek Helyar, Chair of Staff Side at Whipps Cross, Valerie Phillips and Chair of the Staff Partnership Forum, Mireille Braid, in the near future, for an open and frank discussion about lessons to be learnt and Charlotte’s future contribution.  

The Trust values Charlotte’s long professional contribution over many years to standards of patient care and to patient and staff safety.

Barts Health NHS Trust                                                            Charlotte Monro

Article Index


Charlotte Monro’s Employment Tribunal

Report by Campaign to Reinstate Charlotte Monro, March 20, 2015

[…] The public seats were packed with colleagues, campaigners, friends, family who came to give support and sat gripped through the hours of evidence. The legal team provided by her union UNISON did a fantastic job. For all of us who were there it has been a powerful experience.

Listening to the evidence it became clear that Charlotte had been dismissed because she was an effective trade union rep who had spoken out in a public and that the disciplinary process and sacking were initiated by the senior leadership team or HR and not by her own manager.

The current difficulties Whipps Cross Hospital and Barts Health Trust are in is headline news. An exodus of experienced staff and heavy reliance on agency workers has, as people feared, impacted on patient care. The Care Quality Commission is clear the problem lies in a cultural and leadership issue not with front line staff, and points to the 2013 down banding of nursing staff. Charlotte’s suspension from key trade union duties took place as this was being prepared. Her dismissal cannot in our view be separated from of the culture of bullying and intimidation that has continued to put staff in fear of speaking out.

Rally outside the Tribunal
Reinstatement of Charlotte would be a very real step in moving away from this negative culture and we believe would help to restore staff morale at Whipps Cross.

In the course of the tribunal very important questions have been explored.

On the last day the Trust formally conceded that Charlotte’s speaking at scrutiny committee did amount to a protected disclosure (whistle blowing). She had spoken of concerns over cuts to the excellent Whipps Cross stroke service.

The judge said the tribunal would consider whether or not disciplinary action on any of the other issues would be likely to have been taken if it were not for the claimant speaking at scrutiny, and noted that it was within days of this the disciplinary process was launched.

On the question of a trade union rep talking to staff about their jobs being at risk before the official launch of consultation, the judge identified the potential conflict of interest between the obligations of TU representatives to the people they represent, and an obligation of confidentiality set by an employer.

Polly Toynbee addressing a meeting
at BMA House on the right to speak out
Charlotte’s past convictions and the fact that they were spent convictions other than in the specific employment context where they should have been declared was a point of focus for the tribunal. The judge was clearly of the view that the specific context of political protests, etc., and the circumstances should have been taken into account in considering whether they were relevant to her present employment and long successful career.

Charlotte’s barrister submitted that her dismissal for not declaring spent convictions was a breach of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the right to private and family life. She explained that work is part of a person’s private life because it becomes part of your identity, and that once a conviction is spent it becomes part of private life; therefore a decision to refuse NHS employment (or to dismiss an employee) as a result of spent convictions must be considered very carefully and taken only if genuinely necessary, e.g. because of risk to patients. Charlotte’s managers provided evidence that they were completely confident that Charlotte posed no risk to patients and public; on the contrary they stated that she did her job extremely well and demonstrated great integrity.

The dismissal was therefore argued to be a breach of Bart’s duty as a public body to uphold human rights.

It was with great concern that we noticed that at least six other staff members from Bart’s were at the Tribunal premises attending their own Employment Tribunals at the same time as Charlotte.


Article Index


What Is Just Is Just

{short description of image}
Save Lewisham Hospital and other
campaigns outside the Tribunal
On Friday, March 20, the Tribunal of Charlotte Monro came to an end and the presiding judge gave his final comments. In these comments, he was quite scathing of the treatment of Ms Monro by Barts Health NHS Trust and the thinly veiled attempt to stifle or deflect her concerns regarding the Trust’s quality of care at Whipps Cross Hospital and their inhuman treatment of the hospital workers. With the agreement between the Trust and Ms Monro, a judgment by the panel of the judge and two lay members will not be given, but the content of the proceedings of the Tribunal has been shown to be of significance. Its proceedings were conducted under the public gaze, and who has justice on their side is open for all to see.

The Tribunal’s proceedings brought out that rather than dealing with Ms Monro’s concerns, which she raised in her role as a union representative for the hospital workers, the Trust sought to discredit her by alleging that she was dismissed for giving “inaccurate information”, and by alleging that Ms Monro’s has failed to disclose “multiple convictions”. What the Tribunal exposed was the hostility of the Trust towards Ms Monro on the basis of her taking a stand against threats to health care, and being accountable to the interests of the health workers whom she represented. In other words, the dismissal of Ms Monro came about because the Trust recognised only an alleged duty of “confidentiality” and no duty of being accountable to the staff, her members, including their concern for the future direction of the health service. Thus the extreme hostility of the Trust to Ms Monro was shown, in fact, to be in their view because she was a “union activist”. The Trust recognised no agenda but their own, no life but their own dogmatic rendering of it.

During the Tribunal, the judge made it clear that the circumstances of a person’s previous convictions are a very important measure of whether their behaviour and stand was just. In Ms Monro’s case, the circumstances were of the political activism of the 1970s in defence of rights and justice for all. Thus, the circumstances of her convictions convinced the judge that Ms Monro’s actions had been a measure of her good character and strength in defending her principles at the time. But further, in the forty years since these convictions were given, Ms Monro has been an example of excellence in her work at the hospital and is a person of the highest standing among her fellow colleagues and patients. It is also the case that the Trust, as a public body, has a duty to uphold human rights, so a dismissal could only be on the basis, not of “spent” convictions, but of an assessed risk to patients which demand the pressing need of dismissal. This was clearly the opposite of being the case. The Trust had no right to make a public statement defaming Ms Monro.

Charlotte Monro Chairing Whipps
Cross meeting, October 23 2013
The Appeal Tribunal came at the time when the latest Francis Report has exposed the culture of diktat and intimidation within the health service. It also came at the time when Barts Health Trust is clearly in disarray, being put in special measures and with several resignations from its top echelons. The case of Charlotte Monro has assisted in clarifying and establishing what is just and unjust, the importance of uniting all in action to take a stand.

Whilst in a just society, where all its members have taken part in establishing the laws of the state and willingly agree to uphold them, there are circumstances, such as the clearly heinous laws passed by the Nazi Party in Germany during the 1930s, where it is important to stand up for the rights of those oppressed by such unjust laws and to oppose all injustice and arbitrariness.

So the question could be posed as to who was really in the dock here regarding wrong-doing and injustice. The agenda coming from the ruling elite is to criminalise dissent. Charlotte’s case has contributed to putting a spanner in the works of this agenda.

In today’s Britain, laws are passed with increasing rapidity, and often these laws are contradictory and quite arbitrary. In fact, this state of arbitrariness exists all the time. There has developed a quite Kafka-esque situation where the government brings laws into being and the society is told it must simply carry these laws out. For example, in all schools and public work places involving children, all employees and adults who might come into contact with children already must sign a DBS form, which includes getting a police check and two references. In September, the government introduced a new law requiring these same employees and adults to sign a further enhanced DBS form asserting that they do not share a dwelling with any persons with any criminal convictions. This was supposed to have been carried out in full by December 31. However, by January, the issue was seemingly dropped.

The effect of the law has been to potentially criminalise by association a section of people. More importantly, it was not discussed, nor openly introduced, and yet at the same time, it has been enacted on people, requiring them to mindlessly obey yet another diktat. This in itself is a form of fascism and encourages people to simply follow and not to challenge.

Whipps Cross Meeting, October 2013
As the judge in the Tribunal alluded to, there may be wider context to the circumstances of the case which would involve organisers like Charlotte Monro once more taking to the streets. It is a case of upholding the right to conscience and the right to be. For justice to be done, there must prevail a climate of being able to speak out and be taken seriously. And although employment law does not present a level playing field for working people, nevertheless against this grain the reinstatement of Charlotte Monro is a major victory. And clearly, one thing that needs further addressing is to overturn the law under which workers find it almost impossible, because of the imposed cost and other factors, to go to an Employment Tribunal in the first place. The number is reported to have dropped by 80% since costs were imposed.

What Ms Monro’s Tribunal also exposed is that it is important to challenge the arbitrariness of decision-making from on high, the issue of having to “do as you’re told”, or face the consequences. It is necessary to break through the hopelessness and powerlessness that this agenda represents for the people, and in this fight the working class can advance with its heads held high. In the final analysis, the fight is one for the empowerment of people and for the democratic renewal of the society. Charlotte Monro, like so many principled health workers and activists, represents the highroad of civilisation which defends the rights of all and establishes that everyone has rights by virtue of being human in a human society.

That Charlotte Monro has been reinstated can be of immense inspiration to all who are seeking to unite the working class and people in action for what is just and against what is unjust. Her case was fought not on the basis of some exceptional, extreme or extremely oppressed individual isolated from the class, but as one who represents the social consciousness of human beings who are the target of the wrecking activities of those in authority, beginning with those in government. The victory of Charlotte’s reinstatement would seem to sidestep a judgment being given which would set a legal precedent. But it sets a precedent in terms of the work of providing the working class with consciousness and organisation, and showing the fight for what is just can never be underestimated and imbues its participants with dignity and optimism for the future despite the odds.

Article Index


General Election 2015

Packed Rally to Save Our Health Service

On Tuesday, March 10, well over 500 health workers, patients and Save the NHS campaigners filled Hammersmith Town Hall to capacity for a very lively and fighting meeting organised by London Keep Our NHS Public Co-ordinating Committee and hosted by Save Our Hospitals (Hammersmith and Charing Cross) London. The meeting was backed by London-wide save NHS and hospital organisations and individuals including Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, Save our Surgeries, Defend Haringey Health Services, Newham Save Our NHS, Ealing Save Our NHS, Waltham Forest Save Our NHS, Hackney, Camden, Tower Hamlets and Islington KONP, Dr Clive Peedell (National Health Action Party), Dr Jacky Davis, Dr Ron Singer, Dr Jackie Turner, Dr Louise Irvine and Dr John Lister.

The meeting was organised as a rallying call to fight the devastating hospital and A&E closures in West London which are creating increasingly dangerous waiting times for patients, now the worst in the country. The Chair of the meeting, Anne Drinkell, from the Save Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospital campaigns in her opening remarks pointed out that with the planned axing of four A&Es, Hammersmith was the “epicentre” of cuts to our NHS but also the “epicentre” of the fight back against these cuts.

The first speaker, Dr Louise Irvine (Chair of Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign and NHA candidate standing against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in Farnham in May) said it was “fantastic” to be at this meeting and that the huge turnout showed that “our fight is increasing”. In an important and inspiring speech, Dr Irvine pointed out that “everything we predicted five years ago” about the devastation of the NHS was becoming true. She said that “we need to keep the pressure up”. She said, as an NHA Party candidate in the election, that we “can’t trust any of the main parties”. She said that the experience of the successful Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign showed that what is needed is a united front and that, notwithstanding what disagreements may exist, there is much more that we all agree on and that above all “we need unity” and to “sharpen our thinking”. Dr Irvine pointed out that the “Our number 1 demand” is to get rid of the Health and Social Care Act and privatisation. She went on to say that funding was crucial and spoke of the planned government cuts of £30 billion to the NHS over the next five years with £22 billion from “efficiency savings” which equals cuts. She spoke of the need to address PFI, to re-negotiate PFI deals and oppose the whole of TTIP. Louise ended by speaking of the importance of “finding as much common ground as possible” in our fight. In this connection she showed a new poster produced by the SLHC stating “Keep Calm on 7th May – when you vote, #ThinkNHS”.

Louise Irvine NHA Candidate speaking at rally
In his speech Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter condemned the “local politicians” (i.e. the previous local Tory council) who had actually voted for the closure of Charing Cross Hospital without any public consultation or independent review. He spoke of the closure of Hammersmith and Central Middlesex A&Es, the loss of 93% of beds and of “the best stroke unit in the country”. He said what was happening in his area was “emblematic” of what this government is doing to destroy the NHS. He spoke of the horrendous problems caused by the cuts, of ambulances having to drive round trying to find an A&E that would admit their patients. He pointed out that what is going on was totally inappropriate for healthcare in the 21st century

Jackie Turner from “Save Our Surgeries” pointed out that “we can afford the NHS” and that it is the “most cost effective in the developed world”. She gave the example of the withdrawal of Circle from managing Hinchingbrooke Hospital (which would have been to have been “the country's first privately-run NHS Hospital”) as an example of showing that privatisation is totally inappropriate for the NHS and that private providers, far from giving a better service, are incapable of providing it at all.

Jacky Turner spoke of the Lewisham Campaign as an example that “we can win”. She spoke of the struggle against the closure of GP surgeries in East London and said that their battle had won some reprieve but that the reprieve money received was “paltry”. She spoke of the crucial importance of “bringing the power of health workers into play” with their “upfront picket lines” and of the necessity of the health unions to actually stand up for the NHS. She pointed out that health workers were poorly unionised and urged help in building unions and spoke of the support they had received from Unite and the GMB. Jacky Turner ended by quoting Nye Bevan: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

Dr Jillian Creasey, the spokesperson on health from the Green Party, in her speech put the struggle to save the NHS in a wider context. She spoke of “the whole society being sick” with poor public transport, inadequate and poor food, and pollution and that the problems with the NHS had to be seen in this light. She said that the NHS is poorly funded and was not a “drain on resources” but “a driver for the economy” as well as being a fundamental right. Dr Creasey spoke of the importance of integrating the NHS with social care backed by good workforce planning and training and that these cannot be marketised. She pointed out that the Greens were totally against the “purchase/provider split”, and that the “target culture” was “infecting the whole NHS”. She spoke of social care as being more privatised than the NHS itself. She said the Greens back the NHS Reinstatement Bill. She finished by underlining the important principle that it must be the Secretary of State’s legal duty to provide social and health care and condemned “25 years of neo-liberal privatisation”.

Dr Sandhu, an Ealing hospital consultant, said that our governments can bail out the banks but not provide the money for the NHS. He pointed out the huge amount of money that is going to locum doctors, saying that this was part of the overall privatisation of health services. He spoke of the reluctance of healthcare workers to send elderly and other vulnerable people back home from hospital because of the lack of home care. He vividly spoke of the “dark forces” opposing us – “the vultures and sharks” – and that we should not underestimate these people, but also not underestimate ourselves.

Owen Jones, the columnist and campaigner, in a stirring speech praised the “People’s Republic of Hammersmith” who “kicked the Tories out”. He said the NHS “stands as a beacon” in putting people before profit. He pointed out that the Coalition “didn’t have the guts” to put forward their plans for the NHS before the last election. Along with the other speakers Owen Jones spoke of the importance of integrating social care with the NHS. Speaking of our fight he pointed out “we owe it to our ancestors”, those who fought for our rights such as the suffragettes to fight for our NHS, “to keep the flame alive” and that “we will win in the end”.

After the main speakers there were lively contributions from the floor several pointing out that the NHS was the key issue of the election. A woman (Charlotte Monro’s co-worker) spoke of the “bullying culture” of Barts NHS Trust and the importance to link with other workers and unions. Tony O’Sullivan from the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign spoke of the “fantastic support” the Lewisham Hospital Campaign had received and in return the huge respect it had for the North West London Campaign. Despite the victory in the battle to save Lewisham Hospital, Tony O’Sullivan pointed out that “the war had not been won” and there was a continuing fight to save local hospital services in Lewisham and Bexley. He also spoke in defence of the Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015 pointing out in answering people who have doubts about the necessity for another “top down re-organisation of the NHS” that “the NHS is being destroyed under our own very eyes”. A rep from the Newham Save Our NHS condemned the attacks on immigrants and the racism being used to divide local GPs.

The speeches by Owen Jones, Dr Sandhu and Andy Slaughter can be found on YouTube.

Article Index


The Right to Housing Is an Election Issue

Part 2 – A Brief History of Public Housing

Public housing in Britain has a long history stretching back to the 19th Century. The steep rise in the population of the cities during the Industrial Revolution led to the growth of urban slums, where much of the working class lived in overcrowded buildings of poor quality, disease was rife and crime and other social problems took hold. This had reached such proportions that change posed itself as a straightforward necessity. For the industrial capitalists, there was the economic need for a fit, healthy and orderly workforce, located near to the factories. Disease led to epidemics and was not discriminate: the rich were themselves very much at risk. For the workers, the need was simply for a standard of living fit for human beings. Friedrich Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England, published in 1845, was seminal in smashing the silence on the conditions of life and work. Furthermore, the Chartist movement and the formation of the first workers’ and socialist parties meant that the working class was becoming organised and making its demands politically, while ever since the Paris Commune, the threat of revolution existed.

The issue of housing therefore posed itself as a sharp necessity at that time, which the owners of capital needed to act upon, lest the workers themselves would. First this was taken up in the form of philanthropy, later by certain factory owners, some of whom built quite extensive housing for their workers, most notably the villages of Saltaire in 1853, Port Sunlight in 1888 and Bourneville in 1893.

Nevertheless, it was only after the entire period of the Industrial Revolution that the state first became involved with a Royal Commission in 1885, resulting in the Housing Act of 1890. This Act encouraged local authorities to improve housing, including giving them the power to close unsanitary residences. As a consequence, the newly-formed London County Council began building the world’s first public housing estate in 1890. The Boundary Estate, officially opened in 1900, replaced the notorious Old Nichol slum in the East End of London, where the infant mortality rate was so high that a quarter of babies died before reaching the age of one.

This began the first wave of council house building. It was no coincidence that this happened at the turn of the 20th century as capitalism matured into the global, monopoly-dominated imperialist system. The pursuit of empire-building further required a healthy working class, not least to serve in increasingly sophisticated and large-scale wars. The poor condition of the workers became particularly evident during the First World War. The Housing Act of 1919 required councils to provide housing, assisted by government funding, resulting in council house building on a mass scale. Later, with the onset of the Great Depression, the 1930 Housing Act required councils to prepare slum clearance plans.

The Second World War changed the situation again, not only because of the need to rebuild the bombed cities. Inspired by the victory over fascism, the working class and people were demanding change. The post-war Labour government ushered in the new welfare state arrangements to control this situation through accommodating and making some concessions to the workers. At the same time, the Labour Party was beginning to position itself as a catch-all party ostensibly representing the whole people, and as such set out a vision for society. In this context, and drawing on the experience of the earlier “garden cities”, Health and Housing Minister Aneurin Bevan envisioned estates where “the working man, the doctor and the clergyman will live in close proximity to each other”. Out of this came the New Towns Act of 1946. Under this programme, entire towns were built on areas of land designated for development by the government. Eleven such towns had been built by 1955, the first being Stevenage in Hertfordshire.

The pattern followed in England and Wales was typically of modest but well-spaced semi-detached houses with gardens; in Scotland, three or four storey blocks of flats. In either case, these homes brought indoor toilets and hot running water for the first time to many workers.

This set the stage for the subsequent period, which became the heyday of the public house-building era under both Labour and Conservative governments, though it went through various phases and shifts in emphasis. Generally, the new town model was gradually abandoned, with the focus now on rapid house-building within the cities on the scale of hundreds of thousands per year; 1.5 million homes were built between 1965 and 1970. High-rise tower blocks of six or more floors, which could be built quickly and cheaply, came to dominate. Council housing rose to form half of the total housing stock during the 1960s, and was the way in which the majority of the working people lived.

It was also in this period that the Parker Morris Committee wrote a report entitled “Homes for Today and Tomorrow” on the size and quality of social housing, resulting in the Parker Morris Standards. These became legally enforced, first for all houses built in new towns in 1967 to all council houses in 1969. Though aimed at public housing, private sector housing was also influenced by these standards.

The welfare state era and the post-war social contract came to an end with the election of the Thatcher government in 1979, which unleashed the anti-social offensive in favour of the monopolies, which had switched their favoured approach to demanding that every aspect of the economy and society pay them tribute. Only monopoly right was to be recognised from this point on; public right was to be accommodated no more. Initially, this took the form of the erosion of state provision, privatisation and promotion of the so-called free market economy.

Regarding housing, this meant replacing any notion of the right to housing with the “Right to Buy”. Under this banner, one of the first pieces of major legislation of the Thatcher government, the 1980 Housing Act, allowed council tenants to purchase their house from their local authority. In addition, the Parker Morris Standards were abandoned, and house sizes in both the public and private sector became significantly smaller.

This single act spelled the end of the public housing system that had developed until that time. About 1.5 million council houses were sold in the first ten years; in that time, home ownership rose from 55% to 67% of the population. Subject to the unshielded market, house price boom and bust has become a permanent feature, with an overall trend of widening disparity between average prices and wages. The opening up to the market allowed big players to move in; it is reported that at least a third of ex-council houses are now owned by rich landlords. Other features have been a shortage of social housing as well as, on the one hand, gentrification of housing estates, and on the other, their running-down into areas of concentrated deprivation.

The other growing sector that took off in this period are non-state providers of social housing, such as housing associations. Tony Blair’s New Labour government which came to power in 1997 carried on where Thatcher left off by using housing associations to take the management of social housing away from local authorities. This was first done through Large Scale Voluntary Transfers of council property to housing associations, and later settled on Arm’s Length Management Organisation. This was in effect a kind of public-private partnership, where local authorities retained ownership, but “not-for-profit” organisations managed the homes. It was a classic “third way” approach to increasing private involvement in the sector.

By this time, mortgages and the private rental sector was the norm for most of the population; council housing had become a form of welfare benefit for those on lowest incomes. House prices and rents were on the rise, and standing in between, housing associations typically charged higher rents than councils. By the early 2000s, rents had become so high that private property developers began to be required to offer a proportion of “affordable housing” in order to obtain planning permission.

The situation today is that a small but significant minority (17% in 2010) of households are in social housing, split almost half way between homes provided by councils and private housing associations. Of the council houses, a small proportion is arms-length managed. Most new housing fails to meet the Parker Morris Standards laid down fifty years ago.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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