Monday 08 August 2011

by John Millington, Campaigns Reporter, Morning Star


Council housing campaigners in Wycombe called on the government today to halt the sell-off of over 6,000 homes, citing breaches in the consultation of tenants by the local council.

Wycombe Defend Council Housing has written to Housing Minister Grant Shapps asking the government to intervene to prevent the sell-off, which was agreed earlier this year.

Back in April council tenants voted in favour of the proposals.

But following subsequent objections raised by tenants and irregularities in the consultation process campaigners are insisting the government halts the transfer under the statutory guidance of 2009.

“The adoption of the 2009 statutory guidance had the effect of cleaning up some previous abuses by council landlords who deployed large and disproportionate resources in stock transfer consultations to put a partial and incomplete argument to tenants about stock transfer,” the letter states.

In this case Wycombe District Council (WDC) has spent £1.27 million while our Vote No campaign spent £1,758.

If the £1.27m was spent to advise tenants correctly then no problem arises. However if the consultation was seriously flawed, then WDC has failed to meet the requirements of the guidance and the transfer should not go ahead.”

The letter goes on to accuse the local council of misleading tenants during the consultation by failing to mention that that there would be a “33 per cent increase in resources for repairs and improvements under continued council ownership of the (housing) stock.”

Wycombe Defend Council Housing co-ordinator Paul Burnham told the Star that statutory guidance was unambiguous and the government had no choice but to stop the transfer “if they follow statute.”

Mr Burnham said Mr Shapps “had to stop the transfer if the guidance means anything.

“Or alternatively he can say ‘privatisation is our policy’ and allow the council to sell off the stock.”

The houses are due to be sold off to private company Red Kite in December if the government refuses to intervene.

Mr Burnham said the campaign was being supported by Labour MP Austin Mitchell.

“We will pursue judicial review if the government refuses to act,” he added.

Wycombe Labour group leader Councillor Victoria Groulef has written to cabinet member for homes Councillor David Carroll to raise concerns about the transfer.