From Today’s Advertiser letters page.

Tenants can stop the sell-off of our housing

For those Advertiser readers who like a riddle here is one. The government says to Swindon Council it has to pay an extra £145 million in housing ‘debt’. It must pay the whole lot, not a penny less. The figure was ‘not negotiable’. Yet miraculously if the Council agrees to sell off its housing stock to a Housing Association not only is the extra ‘debt’ negotiable but the Council will be let off the whole lot. They will even let the Council have an extra £72.6 million to fill a ‘capital shortfall’.

In fact the government has tried to stack the finances in favour of transfer and Swindon Council’s ruling Conservative group has raised not a whimper. They masquerade as helpless observers who have to do what the government tells them, seemingly without protest.

Yet this ruling group are members of the same political party which leads the government. They are members of the same political party as the two Swindon MPs. Did our MPs challenge the government’s unjust loading up of the Council with an extra £145 million of debt? Did the ruling group ask them to intervene on our behalf?

The decision of the Council to flog off our Housing is a political decision, and not just a financial one. It is in line with their ‘small state’ ideology and their policy of outsourcing public services, including the latest one, the home care service.

However, despite this attempt to stack the cards in favour of transfer, the Council is coy about the fact that under the new housing finance system we can keep all our rent. The ‘negative subsidy’ paid by Swindon (it currently hands over to the government more than £9 million a year of our rent receipts) ends. Over the next 30 years, according to the Council’s own figures, this means that we will be able to keep an extra £667 million instead of having to hand it over to the government.

The Council says that it will merely present ‘the facts’ to tenants. In reality it is campaigning to convince tenants to vote for transfer. But tenants have the ability to reject the sell-off and keep our Council homes. During the consultation period if the message from tenants is strongly opposed to transfer the Council may think twice about going to ballot. If a majority of tenants vote against the transfer, then the Council tax payers (tenants included) will have to pay the bill. If the ballot does take place in November tenants have the chance to vote it down. Our homes cannot be sold off without a majority tenants who vote, voting for it.

Any tenant interested in campaigning to keep our Council homes or wanting to discuss the implications of transfer can contact Swindon Tenants Campaign Group on stcg@btinternet.com or ring 07786394593 (we can ring you back). You can visit our website at: keepourcouncilhomes.wordpress.com .

Martin Wicks
Swindon Tenants’ Campaign Group

 

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