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Confrontation at Clay Cross

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Confrontation at Clay Cross

A look at a more rebellious age, as the Skinner family lead a struggle in defiance of the law to keep housing rents low and keep school milk.

Documentary 1974 26 mins


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Among the many battles that were fought against governments of both Labour and Tory during the 1970s, the one at Clay Cross stands out both for the wide range of issues it involved, and in being led by a local council. Here the battle is followed from its beginning to its end, from council chambers to demonstrations outside law courts, with both sides of the argument getting an opportunity to fully air their positions, and with Austin Mitchell holding the middle ground.

The Conservatives became opposed in principle to council housing in the mid-1950s, well before the Housing Finance Act became law in 1972, at which time Councils owned 29 per cent of all homes in England and Wales. The Act would raise rents by 25% (on average) and remove the freedom of local councillors to set the rents. By that date the great majority of local councils were under Labour control, and it took the threat of legal action to force all but Clay Cross to back down, although there were mass protests in many other areas. The eleven Clay Cross councillors were disqualified from office and personally surcharged and new elections ordered, resulting in the return of another council pledged to resistance.