Since I wrote my report in 2006 ( ) there have been major changes to the way Kingfisher operates.

No sooner had I left than they reversed the decision not to pay Councillors, which had been blocked by myself and the leader of the Labour group, they now claim approx £4,000/yr, each for attending a handful of meetings.

On site wardens have all been removed to be replaced with a smaller number of mobile wardens. Service charges remain the same and continue to rise at rates usually way above inflation. Despite what you may have been told in Swindon there is no restriction on service charge rises.

After merging with another association about four years ago they have now been effectively taken over by the Sovereign Housing Group (33,000 properties).

There are no longer any local councillors on the Board, well at least the tenants no longer have to pay them as well as the rest of the Board, however it does mean that there is no longer any local representation as the HA’s operational area now stretches from Cornwall to Sussex.

The idea that a new HA set up with massive levels of debt will be able to survive where others cannot is wishful thinking at best.

Only last week the issue of what happened to the £83million profit BDBC received after the sell- off has become a major political issue in Basingstoke, as it now transpires that none of the money was ever spent on supporting new housing. The only vaguely housing related use was to buy 2000 acres of farmland to provide for expansion of the town which the ruling Conservative group is now excluding from the current Local Development Framework to prevent development near their wards. Truly shocking. See article in local press.

The most obvious question is why Swindon Council claims they cannot support a debt of £145m on their 10,000 houses, When Winchester City Council my next door neighbour can support £150m on their 5,000 houses. They are not even considering transfer.

I note on the Council’s website that they claim there will be no difference in rent levels, this is not my experience. Across the country HA’s have always raised rents by the maximum permissible under the government guidelines. Councils have not. This explains why rents in Basingstoke are now around £800/yr higher than next door Winchester despite them being slightly lower when they were still owned by the Council.

Councillor Ian Tilbury