Swindon Defend Council Housing Campaign set up to oppose transfer of our Council homes to a Housing Association

Swindon Trades Union Council’s February meeting was devoted to a discussion on the threat of transfer of the town’s Council Housing to a Housing Association.

Peter Allenson, a national officer for the union UNITE, offered the support of the national union.  Paul Burnham spoke on behalf of the national Defend Council Housing campaign which brings together the trades union and tenants organisations throughout the country.

Hugh Kirkbride, Swindon District Secretary of UNITE, reported that the union’s District Committee had agreed to support a campaign against transfer.  Bob Cretchley, Secretary of Thamesdown UNISON gave the support of his union, some of whose members carry out the maintenance work on the local housing stock.

It was agreed to set up a Swindon Defend Council Housing campaign (SDCH) to oppose transfer, to keep our Council homes and to campaign for sufficient funding to maintain and improve the stock.

Swindon Council will shortly be organising a series of consultation meetings in local areas, where Council tenants will have the opportunity to have their say. When this happened in the first ‘options appraisal’ more than 5 years ago, the overwhelming majority of tenants expressed their opposition to transfer.

Cabinet member David Renard (responsible for housing) has said that if the consultation shows that tenants want to stay with the Council then he would recommend that they do not proceed with a ballot. Should the Council organise a ballot and the tenants reject transfer then the town’s tax payers will be stuck with a bill of around £1 million.

Swindon TUC secretary (and tenant) Martin Wicks said:

“The consultation provides tenants with the opportunity to express their opposition to transfer and to bring to a halt the ‘options appraisal’.  This would in our view be the best outcome for tenants.

 Should the issue go to a ballot then we will campaign for a No vote.”

Swindon DCH brings together local trades unions and tenants from sheltered accommodation, from Park North, Park South, Penhill, and Pinehurst. We are just at the start of the campaign, so we hope to involve tenants from all the estates.

What can you do?

If you are a tenant opposed to transfer we can:

● send you leaflets to give out to your friends and neighbours

● send you a window poster opposing transfer

Make sure you

● attend the local meetings to be organised by the Council to express your opposition to transfer

● write to your councillor opposing transfer, pressing them to oppose it

● write to your MP calling for them to support the right of Councils to keep all the rent money we receive from tenants

If you are interested in getting involved in the campaign email: swindondch@btinternet.com or ring 496816 or 07786 394593

Visit our website at: http://keepourcouncilhomes.wordpress.com

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2 Responses to Swindon Defend Council Housing Campaign set up to oppose transfer of our Council homes to a Housing Association

  1. Alexander says:

    Dear Swindon DCH,

    Although we failed to stop the sell-off of our homes to Somer Housing in 1999 we did eventually get the following judgements from the District Auditor.

    1) the £500,000 of pro sell-off publicity was judged to have been unlawful and an unlawful expenditure in breach of DOE Circular 20/88 which states “Local Authorities cannot use public funds to mount publicity campaigns specifically designed to persuade the public to a particular point of view.” ie: an improper purpose.

    This argument was subsequently put by the anti regional assembly lobby in the North East and North West of England to the relevant District Auditors who very quickly put an immediate stop to the local authorities involved from issuing any more pro regional assembly propaganda paid for out of taxpayers money, the money had to be paid back etc.,

    2) the £79m receipt from the sell-off was/is an unlawful entry in the council’s accounts

    3) B&NES Council unlawfully disposed of £2.6m of open-space land to Somer Housing without advertising its proposed disposal and for nil consideration

    4) the work carried out post sell-off should not have had a rent increase applied to them ie: new windows, kitchens, bathrooms that are past their shelf life (usually 25-30 years) are officially classed as repairs that do not carry a rent increase whereas the RSL pretends they are improvements which do carry a rent increase.

    We have also been advised by Judge Rutherford in Bath County Court in 2006 and Will Rolt Solicitors as advised by Jan Luba QC in 2006 that the new landlord Somer Housing should have, in law, taken subject to the transferring tenants existing secure tenancies by issuing what is known as a s.3 notice of assignment of the old landlords interest under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. As we have refused to sign the new assured tenancy forcibly offered to us by Somer in 1999 and it has failed to take subject to our existing secure tenancy with B&NES Council by issuing the s.3 notice we have been advised that we remain secure council tenants with our landlord B&NES Council. Trying to get the Council and Somer to accept these legal facts is another matter though.

    We have kept all the documentation from these judgements, the legal arguments used etc., which we can easily copy and send on to you if required.

    Interestingly tenants of Somer Housing have in the 10 years since the sell-off paid out £60m in interest charges alone on the £79m debt with not one penny of that debt having been repaid plus a further £20m in VAT charges for work carried out a charge that would not apply with the local authority whilst Somer Housing has sold off over 1000 properties under the right to buy scheme (with 70% of that receipt going to B&NES Council)the housing waiting list has jumped from 3500 in 1999 to 6500 in 2009.

    It might be worth your while asking the council under a FOI request

    1) what in their opinion actually happens to a secure tenancy post sell-off? no doubt they will pretend tenants automatically become assured tenants. In reality this just is not true as the legal judgement and legal advice we have on this confirms which we can provide to you as a response to Swindon Council’s false arguments on the issue.

    2) how many of the 10,000 houses it is proposing to sell-off contain asbestos and if the cost of removing it has been factored into the business plan etc., We subsequently found out that of the 10,000 homes sold off in B&NES 7000 contained asbestos but no money was available to do the work. The message being if you leave it alone it will be ok.

    If you are interested in pursuing these issues please let us know.

    Regards,

    Alexander and Sue Johnston

  2. justinbishop says:

    im am very conserned over this mater

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