The coalition government has recently (November 21st) produced a consultation document on the new ‘self-financing’ system which is being introduced next April. The document includes the proposed debt that each Council will have to take on, including a one off payment to the government. The estimate earlier in the year of Swindon’s payment to the government was £145.5 million. However, the latest recalculation means that Swindon will have to pay £5,835,000 million less to the government – £139,665,000.

Unfortunately they have also reduced the borrowing cap which the Council will have, from £176.6 million to £173,495,000. However, it does mean that the Council will have an extra £2,393,000 to spend.

Given the fact that they are supposed to inform tenants of the financial position in relation to the two options (transfer or staying with the Council) it will be interesting to see whether they mention this fact in the ‘Stage 2 notice’ informing tenants that a ballot will have to take place.

Whilst this is certainly a small sum it is a material factor in a ballot. For instance this money could be available for spending on sheltered accommodation. The Council has cynically said that there is zero money available to upgrade sheltered accommodation – they think it is a vote winner. (They could have shifted some of the money slated to be spent on ‘non-traditional’ homes to sheltered accommodation.)

So tenants should be informed of this change in the finances, even if “marginal” as Brian Mattack described it at last Tuesday’s Council meeting. Moreover, as Bernie Brannan, Head of Housing has confirmed to me, the Council will be sending in a submission to the government’s consultation document seeking further movement from the government on the level of debt, so the situation might change further.

Martin Wicks