Housing transfer is not such an obvious option

PUBLISHED: 13:47 29 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:16 28 May 2010

THE recent statement by Councillor Kit Owen that Fenland proposed housing transfer is an obvious option for tenants needs challenging. There is nothing obvious about it at all - tenants have a choice and, frankly, given the increasingly desperate method

THE recent statement by Councillor Kit Owen that Fenland proposed housing transfer is an "obvious option for tenants" needs challenging. There is nothing obvious about it at all - tenants have a choice and, frankly, given the increasingly desperate methods being employed in recent months in order to secure a 'yes' vote from tenants, then, in my view, they are right to be suspicious.

As the only Member/Tenant, I have been appalled at the "hard sell" approach that this policy has been given. I believe taxpayers' money is being spent on an avalanche of paperwork designed not, as is claimed, to provide information, but to browbeat tenants into voting yes.

But it doesn't stop there. The latest thing I read is to offer tenants digital cameras under the guise of reporting anti-social behaviour but, and here's the catch - only if they vote for transfer.

Let's be clear. The move to transfer at this particular time is politically driven with the objective, in my view, of achieving two things.

The first is to bring a sum of money into Fenland's coffers with no explanation of what it will be used for. Secondly, it absolves the council of supplying or addressing housing services in future.

This is, in fact, exactly what the portfolio holder, Cllr Owen, stated in the local press a few months ago when he made it clear in his view local authorities should have nothing to do with providing housing.

Staff, too, are obviously going to be pushing this, after all they have been guaranteed no redundancies for 10 years! What other public sector workers in the present climate have been offered that?

The case for retention of the existing housing stock is, I believe, a valid one.

What needs to be taken into account is this: most of the criteria being asked for Fenland is currently being met.

For example, as far back as 1999 under the then director of housing Ian Robinson, Fenland achieved an almost 100 per cent record on central heating and double glazing.

Currently, I'm informed there is an ongoing kitchen replacement scheme in many properties. Add to this the fact that Fenland already meets the Government's decent homes standard, and has done for some time.

It is the case that many of the things being cited as extra gains under transfer may be misleading, as they are already established. Others, such as probationary tenancies, have been policy at the council for some time.

While it is certainly true that the council can't compete with the scale of resources of a private agency, nevertheless my view is that it should be local authorities which supply or address housing needs within an area.

The choice is straightforward, it is, I would suggest, between a multi-layered top-heavy agency structure with, perhaps, problems of accessibility, response etc. Or to stay with Fenland District Council.

My own position is clear and open. On principle I am against any council selling off its entire housing stock to the private sector.

There are uncertainties - not least of which, and probably the most ominous, is the change of tenancy from secure to assured.

Therefore, on the basis of "better the devil you know than the one you don't". I will be voting against the transfer. But, then, unlike the council, I believe in people making up their own minds.

COUNCILLOR STEVE CAWTHORNE

Hanchant Court

Norwich Road

Wisbech

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