Sunday, November 05, 2006

The future of the Council’s housing stock letter

Merton Council has sent this letter out to tenants about the future of the Council's housing stock. The content of the letter is that we are not 'putting your first' or listening to your views but we believe our way is the best way and the only way forward.

The issue has not even gone through Council scrutiny yet but it is clear to see that the Tories on Merton Council have come to a view are seeking to blame the Government for the lack of investment in housing(false as usual). In any decision it is important that the views of residents are listened to and taken into the account along with exploring all possible options. The very content of this letter will no doubt fuel mutual suspicion of the Council amongst tenants and their motives. Still given the track record of Merton minority Tory administration over the last six months and the actions of the relevant cabinet member Diane Neil-Mills since taking office they have every right to be wary of the motives of this administration.

Dear Resident,

The future of the Council's housing stock

You may see an article in the local press this week about the future of Merton’s homes. We think that you should hear about important issues like this from the Council first, so we are writing to you to tell you about our plans.

The amount of money the Council has to spend on its properties is falling. This is because we have to pay back to the Government each year more of the money we collect from you in rent. This year we have to pay back a quarter of the rental income - thats £6.4 million. Next year, this will increase to around £7 million. This means that we cannot afford to carry out much needed improvements to your homes and we will find it increasingly difficult in the future to maintain the stock to a standard above the basic legal requirement.

We have been considering the options open to the Council and we think the proposal likely to offer most benefit to residents would be to transfer the stock to a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) - often called a Housing Association. We believe the advantage is that RSLs can keep all the money they receive in rent and from Right To Buy sales. This means they have more money to spend on service improvements, repairs and modernisation of the stock. They can also borrow money to make further investments; an option not open to the Council.

We believe that stock transfer would be an exciting opportunity. It would mean that within a few years all your homes would be fully modernised to a standard we know that you want and that we would like to provide. Estate services would be increased and you would benefit from improvements such as new windows, central heating, lifts and roofs. RSLs have to set their rents in the same way as the Council, so the amount you would pay to an RSL is likely to be the same as you would pay to the Council.

If the Council decides to go ahead with this proposal (a decision is expected at the end of January 2007) there will be a long period of consultation, ending in a ballot of all tenants and leaseholders. A transfer to an RSL can only take place if the majority of tenants are not opposed to it.

We will be in touch again as soon as we have more information to share with you.

Yours sincerely,
Jo Williams
Head of Housing Services


Blogger Rob Shorrock said...

Hi Martin,

My name is Rob Shorrock and I am a Labour Councillor at South Kesteven District Council in Lincolnshire. We are coming to the end of the stock transfer process - the results of a tenants ballot will be announced next week.

You follow the experiences we have faced in trying to fight these proposals on my blog



9:14 pm  

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