This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser
Some people appear confused over the report in the Advertiser which said that over 5,000 “said yes to a ballot”. People were asked if they wanted a say in their future, so they said Yes. There’s a suprise. However, this gives no indication as to which way they are going to vote. The confusion was compounded by the fact that Advertiser did not report the response of tenants to the consultation, which is the indication as to which way they would vote.
Curiously the Council did not give these figures to the Adver journalist who reported on the meeting. I checked with him. And they have yet to appear in the paper.
I can understand why they would not be too keen to publish these because after the massive propaganda campaign, costing at least £600,000 and probably more, the results for them were not that glorious. According to their figures 646 tenants indicated that they wanted to stay with the Council, 661 said they wanted a Swindon Housing Association to be set up, 107 had not made up their minds, and 28 said they did not want to tell the Council what their view was.
Even if these figures are correct (and we are attempting to verify them) the ballot could go either way. Those people on the Council who thought they had a Yes vote in the bag, those staff who have been telling tenants transfer is a foregone conclusion, have been shown to be wrong.
Of course, the response only represents 11% of tenants so nobody can assume that the ballot itself will mirror these responses. From our feedback from tenants all over town we know that many people who will vote No thought, not unreasonably, that it was none of the business of the Council to ask how they were going to vote. On the other hand, anybody who supports what the Council is proposing is not likely to be worried about telling the Council that they agree with it. Other tenants were genuinely concerned at the Council knowing which way they were going to vote.
My own conviction, based on feedback from hundreds of tenants, is that a majority of them are opposed to selling off our houses. If they use their vote then there is no question that we can vote down the Council’s proposal.
However, that requires that people make sure they vote and get their No vote in.
Some tenants have expressed the view that the Council will “do it anyway”. But they can only go ahead with transfer if a majority of those voting vote Yes. So the fate of tenants is in our own hands. A majority of No votes means that transfer cannot go ahead. This is a ballot we can win. Make sure you use your vote and vote No to transfer.
Swindon Tenants Campaign Group
I am not a council tenant but I represent my daughter who is confused by the whole affair,as am I to a lesser extent.The whole campaign by the council has made it look like only an idiot would vote “no” and yet I smell a rat.There has been hardly any information in the media about the benefits of staying with the council and I have struggled to find any until my daughter reveived your leaflet”VOTE NO TO TRANSFER”.I am interested therefore if you can supply us with a positive side to voting “NO”. Although I am a house owner I was “brought up ” in council houses and believe it has been neglected for far too long.Thanking you in anticipation.
Hi there David. Yes, you are right to “smell a rat”. There many reasons for voting NO, which you can find on this site. In brief I would say the following. We are opposed to selling off publicly owned housing on the cheap – £6,400 each. If the Council does not own the housing then it has no control over it and has no direct means of addressing the housing crisis in the town. There are 13,000 individuals/families on the waiting list. The only way that this list can be brought down (the same applies to the national level) is to start building Council housing once again on a large scale.
The Council has made all manner of promises, though they are on behalf of a Housing Association which has not yet been set up. The ‘legally binding agreement’ is between the Council and the new Housing Association, not with the tenants. So if the new HA fails to carry out some promises the only thing the tenants can do is appeal to the Council, the very one proposing to sell off our houses, to challenge the HA. But 3 members of the Conservative group will sit on the Board of the HA. If their party still controls the Council they are hardly likely to take their own Councillors on the Board to task, are they?
As Council tenants we have a ‘secure tenure’. This is protected by parliamentary statute. If we go over to a HA we lose this ‘secure tenure’ and we would only have ‘assured tenure’ which is based on contract, which can be changed more easily. We believe that we are safer with our ‘secure tenure’.
Although the Council is giving a ‘guarantee’ on rent for 5 years, one of the things to bear in mind is that service charges are not part of the rent formula. HA’s have used service charge increases to ‘get round’ the rent formula. My own parents in Reading had a ‘service charge’ introduced by their HA on the basis of ‘common areas’. But they live in a house, there are no common areas.
Because HA’s are private business (despite the ‘not for profit’ label) they have to borrow money from commercial sources at a higher rate of interest than Councils which borrow money from the government’s Public Works Loan Board. One of the risks of going over to a HA is that if there is a deterioration in what is a very precarious economic situation, commercial interests rates could well rise, hitting HAs harder than Councils.
One key reason why the Council wants to sell off our homes is because of the £40 million receipt they will get. Currently Council tenants’ rent can only be spent on our houusing – this is the so-called ‘ring-fencing’. Selling them will enable them to have £40 million to spend on things other than housing. In effect they would be nicking our money.
If you have any further questions David why not email me on email@example.com
We are not transferring 70% voted to stay with the council!