Social tenants can come together to make their voices heard

The Co-op Party calls on the government to support a mutual organisation to allow tenants voices to be heard

Following the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Co-operative Party is calling for a national mutual body to be established to hear the voices of tenants.

The call follows the prime minister’s comments on Tuesday that the disaster showed tenants’ voices need to be heard. In an interview with Jon Snow on Channel 4 News, Theresa May said: “The voice of social housing tenants doesn’t appear to have been heard on too many occasions. We have got to find a way to make sure the voice of those people is heard.”

Under the coalition government, the National Tenant Voice was closed down when its funding agreement was cancelled in July 2010 by then housing minister Grant Shapps.

Gareth Thomas, Labour/Co-op MP and chair of the Co-operative Party, has written a letter to Theresa May, calling on her to re-establish the organisation.

He wrote: “There already was a way to make tenants’ voices heard until the National Tenant Voice was abolished by the coalition government in which you served.

Gareth Thomas criticised the axing of the National Tenant Voice

“There is justified concern that the tragedy at Grenfell Tower could have been avoided if issues raised by tenants had been listened to. Sentiments that I believe you share.

“You have the power to correct this mistake by requiring the secretary of state for communities and local government Sajid Javid to bring back the National Tenant Voice immediately. There is no need to wait for the outcome of the Grenfell inquiry.

“We also ask that you place a new statutory duty on the secretary of state for communities and local government to publicly respond at least twice a year to issues raised by the National Tenant Voice.”

The Party has said the new National Tenant Voice should have a mandate to:

  • Represent the interests of tenants in England to the government, regulator and other public bodies
  • Identify issues of concern to social tenants across the country, identifying trends and emerging problems, and ensuring they are raised with government locally and nationally
  • Consider how government policy on housing and other relevant areas, from benefits to building regulations, impact on social tenants
  • Support the tenants’ movement to grow by identifying and sharing good practice in empowering tenants

The organisation should also be established as a mutual, according to the Party, with individual tenants, tenant and resident associations, tenant management organisations and housing co-operatives as members. It should have democratic structures that ensure it is accountable to and representative of its members.

Related: Manchester mayor pledges to ‘put co-op ideas into practice’ at Party exhibition

Mr Thomas also called on the prime minister to “support the development of the UK’s co-operative housing sector, given that tenant voice is an intrinsic characteristic of these and other alternative ownership models”.

Added Mr Thomas: “The Grenfell inquiry will be critical in establishing what went wrong in that horrific case. The pressing issues of accountability and a proper voice for social tenants across England also have to be addressed. The coalition government was wrong to scrap the national body representing social tenants in England in 2010 and Theresa May should correct that mistake immediately when Parliament returns.”

Read the letter and sign the petition on the Co-op Party’s website.

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