Wroughton Parish Council has hit out against the proposal to transfer Swindon Council’s housing stock to a housing association.
Independent firm Electoral Reform Services is balloting tenants on an option to transfer all the properties to a new not-for-profit housing association.
If tenants vote yes, the council will dodge a £139.6m bill from the Government due to changes in how council housing is funded, and the housing association will have £70m extra over 10 years to spend on improvements to homes.
But the parish council has passed a motion stating opposition to the transfer, especially when it said the council would be able to keep all tenants’ rents from April 2012 if it keeps control of stock, rather than losing some to the Government – and so be able to pay off the £139.6m in a few years anyway.
John Newman, the chairman of the planning committee, stressed as an individual he would like to see tenants vote no to the transfer. He said:
“Really our opposition comes from the fact that public assets are being sold off cheap. Many of us, including myself, who were born and bred in Wroughton, can remember the erection of some of the council housing in Wroughton.
“These were argued for and maintained at public expense for some considerable time. Now we have the remainder of council housing in Wroughton, which is still in council ownership, being sold off to a housing association, which is not a public body.”
Mr Newman, who said there are about 290 council houses, maisonettes and flats in the parish, claimed that tenants would be less secure and have less political control under a housing association.
“The main principle, whatever the desires of the housing association, is they’re responsible as a business and they run themselves as such and they aren’t responsible directly to the community at all.
Whatever you think of Swindon Borough Council and the other representative bodies involved in Swindon, the fact is they are elected and up until this point they have been responsible for the maintenance of public assets.”
Mr Newman stressed that the council tenants will have to fund the decision whatever the outcome, but if they stay with the council, there would be about £9m per year generated in rent, which would be kept.