We won't take sides - union

PUBLISHED: 12:36 28 July 2006 | UPDATED: 22:02 28 May 2010

UNION officials have pledged to stay neutral in the battle to win support for the sale of Fenland s 4,000 council houses to Circle Anglia. Ross McGivern, Unison branch secretary at Fenland Hall, said his 250 members - 100 of whom are directly affected - t

UNION officials have pledged to stay neutral in the battle to win support for the sale of Fenland's 4,000 council houses to Circle Anglia.

Ross McGivern, Unison branch secretary at Fenland Hall, said his 250 members - 100 of whom are directly affected - took on board the views and wishes of tenants and the impact on services and staff if the housing stock is retained.

"The neutral position ensures we are able to ensure our members' best interests are served for those who transfer and those that remain employed by the council," he said.

"We are also able to react more independently to further information as it becomes available during the process than if we had adopted an immediate 'opposition' view."

Noel Glover, eastern regional officer for Unison, said his branch members in Fenland were "taking a pragmatic view and gathering as much information as possible before taking a formal line".

Mr Glover said Unison national policy, reconfirmed this year, remained opposed to any form of privatisation of council housing.

"Unison nationally and regionally encourages branches to work with tenants' groups and defend council housing in pressing for the 'fourth option' - essentially, a level financial playing field to allow stock retention and repairs and improvement investment," he said.

"This is also policy of the Labour Party but has not been enacted."

Fenland District Council met yesterday to hear the latest news on the proposed transfer and, with Circle Anglia picked as its preferred £41.9million bidder for the district's 3,800 homes, councillors were due to hear more details of the forthcoming ballot.

Although Circle Anglia has promised a 10-year no-compulsory-redundancy package, Mr Glover said his members potentially faced "a real threat of redundancy if the council cannot support its stock improvement requirements".

He said: "With the current persuasive view that housing associations are the future for social stock, mounting a 'no' vote can be hard to achieve," he said.

"Factor in that tenants are routinely told there is no option, and the privatisation rollercoaster gathers momentum."

Mr Glover said Unison stewards were working with their counterparts in housing associations to build "a more realistic picture of working lives in housing associations".

Tim Mills, Fenland council's head of housing and development, told councillors in a report yesterday: "We remain hopeful of securing a supportive local viewpoint from staff and the Unison branch executive.

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