On Tuesday 3rd January 2012 sometime after 09.00 I received the following information about the housing ballot result:
The information contained within those 3 short lines, hides a long and complex story full of intrigue, excitement and balderdash. The unprecedented high turn out by tenants and their convincing NO vote will add to the mounting and increasingly obvious demoralisation of the uneasy pact that existed between Tory and LibDem councillors. They were warned that it was unwise to waste pots of council taxpayers cash on a ballot that tenants did not want. They just carried on regardless without heed, intent on hammering through the council’s preferred position to sell off the council’s housing. Tories and LibDem councillors queued up to jump onto the board of the Shadow Housing board in particular Cllrs Mavis Child, Andy Harrison, David Renard and brian Mattock who was appointed chair.
This preferred position was in Labour’s view not the best option for the people living in the council’s homes. It would have seen the end of the secure tenancy. It did not give equal prominence to self financing of the housing stock. The Tory and LidDem councillors used all the resources at their disposal to kite their preferred position and in doing so have squandered over half a million pounds of Swindon council Tax Payers money. Yes despite losing the ballot Swindon council tax payers have to pay for it.
Tenants complained during the consultation period that they were being bombarded by pushy calls and visits prompting them to vote Yes to the council’s preferred position to become a housing association. Cllrs Russell Holland and Garry Perkins put a motion to council to deter free expression from councillors who did not support the Tory LibDem preferred position. I and other Labour councillors did not support the preferred position and believed that a council secure tenancy was the best way to protect our tenants homes and self financing was a better way to refurbish and improve council tenant’s homes. This position will now allow the council to start building houses and increase the number of houses to rent. It was shortsighted to turn over approx 18% of the houses in Swindon to a private company that was not accountable to the people of Swindon. Owning public sector housing is a strategic necessity as it ensure that private rents cannot easily escalate to levels far above what is affordable to ordinary working families.
As a member of the Labour party I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris Watts, a fellow Labour party member, who gave up his time to operate a website and author material. Tenants ran their own No to Transfer campaign and many people helped them. It is those silent helpers that who turned out delivering leaflets and talking to tenants who should be thanked.
The tenants saw the preferred position for what it was their homes would be hocked to a banker for the next 30 years. They took the decision to make their homes theirs for life as per the rights granted to them by a council secure tenancy.