On Thursday 21st of July Swindon’s Councillors will be meeting to vote on whether the Council should ballot its Council tenants for a transfer of the housing stock to a housing association. At that meeting I will be appealing to Councillors of all political persuasions that going to ballot will, in all eventualities, be both bad for Swindon’s Council-taxpayers and bad for Swindon’s Council tenants.
For Swindon Council-tax payers, who will have absolutely no say over these changes, a decision to go to ballot will be lose-lose. Council-tax payers’ will lose out should Swindon’s Council tenants decide to say no, as has just been the case at Glamorgan Council, as it will be the Council-tax payers who will be forced to pay the £600,000 cost of balloting Council house tenants.
And Council-tax payers’ will also lose out should Council tenants say yes to a stock transfer, as it will cost tax payers’ £2.6 million to kick-start the new standalone Housing Association.
Though the offer being given to Council House tenants might seem attractive on the surface, I believe going to ballot will also be wrong for tenants and I say this for three key reasons.
Firstly, transferring the stock from Council to Housing Association control will mean that the social landlord will become answerable to Central Government, not the tenants themselves. This means that tenants will have absolutely no power over the proposed 418 properties to be demolished over the course of the first ten years of a new standalone Housing Association. And they will have absolutely no power to prevent this newly proposed Housing Association merging with another Housing Association.
Secondly, though this offer to tenants may seem attractive now in terms of works being offered on the stock, over the 30 years of the new Housing Association’s proposed business Plan, it will be more beneficial for tenants to remain in Council control. So for people hoping to inherit Council houmes from their parent or somebody who aspires to rent a Council house in the future, it would be beneficial for you to stay under local authority ownership.
Lastly and most importantly, tenants have no certainty over the future of their rent levels. And with this Tory-led Government already calling for rents at 80% of the market level and two year fixed-term tenancies, anxiety is already sky high among Council tenants over whether they will be able to stay in their home.
So for these reasons and more, the Labour Group will opposing the Council going to ballot and will join the campaign against a Swindon Council Housing Stock Transfer.
Cllr Jim Grant
Leader of the Labour Group