5th January 2012

Swindon Advertiser

A TENANTS’ group buoyed by victory in the Swindon housing transfer ballot intends to continue its fight on a permanent basis.

The Swindon Tenants’ Campaign Group could be expanded to represent people living in council homes across the borough.

The organisation was set up to oppose plans to sell off the council’s 10,500 homes to a private housing association.

The ballot was a resounding defeat for the proposals, with 72.3 per cent voting against it.

Campaigner Martin Wicks said: “Now we have won the ballot, in my view we need to continue with the campaign group and get more tenants involved.

One of the important things about the campaign is that we have got lots of contacts we didn’t know previously.

There was a lesson for all of us in that if you get organised, even against the odds, you can win. Personally I want to see us pressing on to build a much wider, independent tenants’ campaign group over the next few years.”

Mr Wicks, who has lived in a council property in Welcombe Avenue,Park North, for 27 years, will discuss his plans at the group’s next meeting.

Priorities could include campaigning for funding that matches tenants’ needs and for new council homes to address the housing crisis, locally and nationally.

Swindon Council will have to borrow £140m to pay to the Government under a new system being introduced nationally on April 1.

The transfer to a local housing organisation would have negated this bill, but tenants feared their homes were being sold off too cheaply and they would not have had the same level of service from the new association.

Despite the ballot being hailed as a triumph by campaigners, the council’s main service provider warned it was a “missed business growth opportunity”.

Bill Fisher, managing director of Swindon Commercial Services, said: “I look forward to continuing the relationship with our Swindon Borough Council Housing Maintenance clients so that we can support tenants in Swindon.

From the information we have and the comments reported yesterday by members of the Council, the additional expenditure on home improvements that the Swindon Housing Association offered will be viewed as a missed business growth opportunity by our company.”

An e-petition launched by Swindon UKIP member Bob Feal-Martinez yesterday called on the council not to pay any money to the Government.

He believes successive governments have “misappropriated” nearly £70bn destined for use in housing and left local authorities to foot the bill.

The petition reads: “We the residents of Swindon call on our elected officials to refuse to pay the historical debt repayment demanded by HMG, as this is unjust and unfair, given the debt should have been paid from direct contributions collected by HMG.”

The e-petition can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nodebtpayment.

To get involved with the tenants’ campaign group phone 07786 394 593,

email stcg@btinternet.com or visit https://keepourcouncilhomes.wordpress.com