Swindon Trades Union Council Press Release June 11th 2009

Campaign to keep our Council homes and reject transfer

After all the resources of Swindon Council were thrown at tenants, driving home the message that ‘there is no alternative’ to transfer our homes to a Housing Association, they have (according to the Evening Advertiser) managed to convince only 191 tenants to tick a box in favour of transfer. On this basis they are prepared to risk losing £1 million, which Council tax payers will have to pay if tenants reject their proposal.

Opponents of transfer will be organising a campaign to throw out the proposal in the ballot which will have to take place. Tenants will have the opportunity to stop the proposal going through, but that will depend upon us getting organised.

Swindon TUC organised a meeting at which it was agreed to launch a Defend Council Housing Campaign to oppose transfer. This campaign is open to all those who want to keep our Council homes.

We have a website at: keepourcouncilhomes.wordpress.com

Anybody wishing to get involved should ring 07786 394593

Or they can email us at swindondch@btinternet.com

Martin Wicks, Swindon TUC Secretary and Council tenant, said:

It seems extraordinary that the Council is pressing ahead with a ballot when after all their effort and expense they have been able to convince such a tiny number of people of the case for transfer.

With a big housing crisis and a rising number of people on the waiting list, it makes no sense to dispense with our Council housing. We need more of it not less.

Despite the ‘not for profit’ label, Housing Associations are businesses, run on commercial lines. Where transfers have taken place over the last years it is common for local HA’s to be swallowed up by larger ones. They are also using ‘service charges’ to drive up their rents.

Although the government has tried to force up Council rents to HA levels, HA rents are still generally higher than Council rents, and the ‘equalisation’ has been delayed.

There is a democratic question as well. Whilst Council tenants have the opportunity to vote their landlord out of office in local elections they cannot vote out the Directors of a private company.

Every tenant should be aware of the fact that the decision to transfer our homes can only be implemented if a majority of those who vote in the ballot, agree to it. We therefore have the opportunity to defeat the Council – an opportunity which we should take advantage of.”