From Today’s Advertiser letters page.
Tenants can stop the sell-off of our housing
For those Advertiser readers who like a riddle here is one. The government says to Swindon Council it has to pay an extra £145 million in housing ‘debt’. It must pay the whole lot, not a penny less. The figure was ‘not negotiable’. Yet miraculously if the Council agrees to sell off its housing stock to a Housing Association not only is the extra ‘debt’ negotiable but the Council will be let off the whole lot. They will even let the Council have an extra £72.6 million to fill a ‘capital shortfall’.
In fact the government has tried to stack the finances in favour of transfer and Swindon Council’s ruling Conservative group has raised not a whimper. They masquerade as helpless observers who have to do what the government tells them, seemingly without protest.
Yet this ruling group are members of the same political party which leads the government. They are members of the same political party as the two Swindon MPs. Did our MPs challenge the government’s unjust loading up of the Council with an extra £145 million of debt? Did the ruling group ask them to intervene on our behalf?
The decision of the Council to flog off our Housing is a political decision, and not just a financial one. It is in line with their ‘small state’ ideology and their policy of outsourcing public services, including the latest one, the home care service.
However, despite this attempt to stack the cards in favour of transfer, the Council is coy about the fact that under the new housing finance system we can keep all our rent. The ‘negative subsidy’ paid by Swindon (it currently hands over to the government more than £9 million a year of our rent receipts) ends. Over the next 30 years, according to the Council’s own figures, this means that we will be able to keep an extra £667 million instead of having to hand it over to the government.
The Council says that it will merely present ‘the facts’ to tenants. In reality it is campaigning to convince tenants to vote for transfer. But tenants have the ability to reject the sell-off and keep our Council homes. During the consultation period if the message from tenants is strongly opposed to transfer the Council may think twice about going to ballot. If a majority of tenants vote against the transfer, then the Council tax payers (tenants included) will have to pay the bill. If the ballot does take place in November tenants have the chance to vote it down. Our homes cannot be sold off without a majority tenants who vote, voting for it.
Any tenant interested in campaigning to keep our Council homes or wanting to discuss the implications of transfer can contact Swindon Tenants Campaign Group on firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07786394593 (we can ring you back). You can visit our website at: keepourcouncilhomes.wordpress.com .
Swindon Tenants’ Campaign Group
I Do believe that there is a chance that housing repairs will suffer if we stay with the council as with internal maintenance of the homes not getting some of the general repairs that we currently do. Eg. “Sorry we don’t renew internal doors only repair them” which means that they can nail anything together again till it actually falls off its hinges, hence standards dropping, till the( just managing financially or we just dont have it) tenant tries to find the money to buy a new door themselves, or sorry we dont do new draining boards you’ll have to cope with the dented ill fitting one in place. Thats just a few examples of a broke council which in respect of taking on a burden of 173 million instead of its prudent 12 million debt. Convince me otherwise Martin. I as someone who lives and speaks with tenants like myself would dread the day that the housing repairs could mean external repairs only apart the electrics, gas, central heating and plumbing in the distant future for all next generation tenants. This maybe a slight exageration but where will it end? I can assure you Swindon Council hasn’t convinced me totally that the option of a transfer to a Housing Association will cure all ills and they have never tried to at any time. I took an invited backseat with the Shadow Board. What propaganda??.
Hi there Maggie. The Council has spoke on giving tenants “the full facts”. However, they are deliberately hiding some facts from them. For instance they have not told us the cost of transfer – £197.5 million, a debt that the HA would have to take on. Likewise they have failed to quantify to tenants what it will mean to keep all our rent. According to their own figures, if the ‘negative subsidy’ system continued, then over the next 30 years we would have had to hand over to the government £667 million. Under ‘self-financing’ we get to keep all this. Obviously it’s just an estimate but at the very least we will be able to keep hundreds of millions of pounds more than we would under the current system.
The Council is also scaremongering. In a draft of the offer document they said that some ‘non-traditional’ houses “may become uninhabitable”. This was designed to frighten people. In fact we now find out that the difference between what the Council could do and the HA for structural and thermal work is only 200 houses different over 10 years.
if the council has such a debt that it can aford to sell the stock to H/A what price do they get paid for each house i have heard that as little as £50,000 for each house if thats the case why not let people like us buy them at this price i dont want to change to them but hay if they are going to give the houses away give the people who live in them the same chance to buy them at the price H/A might pay. i also do most of my own repairs as it can take forever to get someone out but do we get anything off our rent? when you want something repaired you get the same old song “sorry we have no money” so where will the H/A get there money to do the jobs and if they get it from the Gov why can’t the council get it to?
M Easton (tennent)
Matthew, they are proposing to sell all our houses for £66 million, which is roughly £6,400 each. Yes that’s right. The HA would get its money from private sources. The debt it would have to take on to fund the scheme is £197.5 million, which the tenants will pay for out of their rent. The Government and the Council have tried to rig the finances in favour of transfer. They claim the HA would have an extra £72.6 million, though once again this is debt rather than money from the government.
Although the extra £145 million debt which the government is loading onto Swindon is unjust, the Council has failed to challenge it. Whilst the government apparently reused to reduce this debt level for the Council, the extra money for the HA is based on the greater cost of repairing ‘non-traditional’ homes. The Council is supposed to have called for the £145 million to be reduced because of these ‘non-traditional’ homes, but the Government refused to accept this argument. Yet if you transfer your homes…
The Council can only sell off individual homes according to a national formula.
By the way, what sort of repairs have you been asking for that the Council has refused?
thanks for the reply its so unfair that we are being dumped by the council because of cost we had a new pain of glass fitted a few years back and it took 8 different people to do the job 7 pices of glass as each was mesured wrong and damage to the UPVC window suround which they then said dont worry i will put it in so it dont show to much and the gran kids should not cutt them selfs and the job took aprox 6 months then they moan they dont have enough money to repair the houses. as a general builder i get asked alot to do small repairs to council houses by people who are fed up with being told it could take 2 or more weeks they only pay for the parts as i dont charge to fit anything just help them. one pensioner has asked me to sort her windows because she has now been waiting 6 weeks as twice they have lost the order and 3 different people have been out to look at the job
Sounds pretty crappy Matthew. What area do you live in? I’m on Parks and I must say that generally council staff have been OK. The problems that we have had have been with contractors. For instance a private contractor who made a mess of our new kitchen. They were dumped eventually. I think there have been problems with the management of the system. Talk to the people who do the job and they are not too impressed with how things are sometimes managed. managers rarely listen to the people who do the work.
What used to really annoy my partner and myself was the problem of an appointment when the two of you were both working. They did change that and it improved.
in Highworth m8 we dont very often get good workers up here maybe 1 in 9 in fact we even pay for a warden on our estate and never see them so its another way they make money to buy all there nice new cars,vans and lorrys but thats the way they spend money then they wonder why they have none left to do the work. we noticed that just before the end of the tax year they do loads i think that way they get goverment funding for the next year im just wondering whats going to happen if they do sell the housing stock how will they fund things what will they put up to cover the money they dont have comming in??
Martin – It might pay you dividends if you wait for the full document, which is in the process of being drafted and summarised, instead of informing tenants of partial facts which makes “Say No” as guilty as Swindon Housing. SBC are obliged to keep tenants in the picture. Swindon tenants should be aware that the bigger picture is to come. Its a tough call to organise the vote within 19 weeks instead of 9 months which is what Grant Shapps (Housing Minister) is demanding. I do agree that they and other local councils across the land neglected to fight their corner on this issue. Why is that?? Not having the full facts only furthers debate by people like us which can only be a good thing.