At last night’s lobby of the Swindon Council meeting, we were informed that the ruling Tory group was withdrawing their resolution proposing to ballot tenants on transfer of our Council housing to a Housing Association. Swindon TUC had called on the ruling group to suspend their proposal in the light of the government consultation on the new Housing Finance system that they are proposing to introduce. The consultation document which will include the detailed proposals as well as the timetable for their introduction, will be published shortly, before the summer Parliamentary recess. (See a Swindon TUC Briefing on Housing Minister John Healey’s statement on the consultation – https://swindontuc.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/swindon-tuc-breifing-government-consultation-on-new-housing-finance-system/ ).
This decision does not mean that the ruling group has abandoned the idea of transfer, but they have had the sense to recognise that the government has proposed a fundamental change to the system which means that the financial calculations on which the transfer proposal was made are out of date.
Healey’s statement indicated that the government had accepted the principle that all Councils can keep all the rent they raise from their tenants. In Swindon’s case this means we will receive £9 million a year which is currently taken by the government (the so-called “negative subsidy” – the government gives us £9 million a year less in grant than we raise in rent).
One major question to be resolved is that of Housing debt. The 202 Councils that still have Council housing left pay £1.2 billion a year ‘service’ on £17 billion debt (covering all the Councils). Healey says that there will have to be a ‘one off settlement’ of this debt. The national Defend Council Housing campaign has called for the government to write off this debt.
When the government consultation is published we will produce a further briefing.