Some excellent news. The Labour Council’s unwanted proposal to abolish council housing in the borough has been abandoned. Vast sums were spent trying to persuade Council tenants and council leaseholders to back the transfer of their homes to an unaccountable Community Gateway housing association. But the opposition was overwhelming. Although they would have denied leaseholders a vote they faced a legal requirement to win support from tenants which they had no hope of gaining. The Conservative Government has also refused to write off the debt that would have been required.
A report for the Council’s Economic Regeneration, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee says:
“On 7 December 2015, following the recommendations of the Residents’ Commission on Council Housing, Members agreed to pursue stock transfer to a new, locally-based not-for-profit Private Registered Provider constituted on the community gateway model. Members also noted that the stock transfer would be subject to, ‘the availability of funding and the negotiation of a satisfactory financial settlement,’ with Government.
3.2 Three other stock transfers have taken place since that report, all in March 2016. All these transfers received Government funding.
3.3 However, Government has now made it clear that there is no funding to support any more stock transfers. 3.4 The Council has with its advisors and the Shadow Board extensively explored all other options to finance a stock transfer, and has concluded it is not possible to produce a financially viable business case which also satisfies residents objectives. 3.5 It is not therefore possible to make an Offer to Residents as part of a Transfer Ballot. The stock transfer programme has been closed.”
“In December 2015, Cabinet approved for the pre-ballot phase of the Transfer Programme, a budget of £617k for 2015/16 and £778k for 2016/17 for the General Fund (“GF”) and £80,000 for 2015/16 and £125k Housing Revenue Account (“HRA”) for 2016/17. 5.2 The total budget for the pre- ballot stage was £1,395k for the GF and £205k for the HRA. Actual expenditure on the programme is much lower: £904k for 2015/16 and 2016/17 of which £802k was GF and £103k was HRA.”
Love the way the way they try to make £1.395 million sound like less by calling it £1,395k.
An appalling proposal that left many of Labour’s traditional supporters feeling betrayed. Also a scandal that so much money was wasted on it. The Conservatives repeatedly called for the scheme to be abandoned – but Labour keep on pouring in public money into the doomed project. While lawyers, consultants and PR men were paid huge fees the Council claimed to have no money for a growing backlog of repairs.
They have not even had the grace to apologise.
Extraordinary. Misfeasance and ineptitude worthy of a banana republic, to use a nowadays very politically incorrect term.
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As the article says, the Labour council was elected on a manifesto commitment to; “work with council tenants to give them ownership of the land their homes are on”.
But how does privatising council housing (which is what a stock transfer is, no matter to whom or for what purpose) count as giving council tenants ownership of their homes? That wasn’t what people voted for, nor expected. We (the tenants) might have reasonably expected a form of ‘common hold’, or perhaps charge placed on land registry. That would have met the election manifesto commitment. Not wholesale stock transfer to another body. Especially as that new body wouldn’t be as accountable, as it would not be answerable to the electorate, as all council housing is!
A community gateway housing association would have had on its board self-appointed busy-bodies & their cronies. Of the panel that recommended transfer with Keith Hill, how many understood on a professional level, the HRA & the subsidy mechanisms that exist between the council & central government via Housing Benefit? Or that all council tenants on benefit are paid weekly in advance, but on transfer they would be paid monthly in arrears, plunging them into arrears on transfer, purely because of the way Housing Benefit is paid to council tenants, is vastly different to how it is paid to everyone else? How many had any professional understanding of rent accounting? None!
The stock transfer would have also decimated the social rented sector in the borough (the plan being to raise rents above the level they would have been had they remained with the council) on all new tenancies granted, effectively ending social provision), leaving only hard pressed housing associations to fight an even steeper uphill battle, as they already charge above social rent (‘affordable rent’ which is usually 80% of market rent. Council rents are often 50% or less than market rent).
This was clearly a ‘new labour’ idea, to privatise council housing, just to try & stop the Tories privatising council housing. You don’t protect our rights, by removing them! As for Keith Hill, his record in Lambeth Homes speaks volumes (look at Housing Ombudsman reports on the management there).
A nasty idea, which has been ridiculed and rightly defeated!
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