Council accused of 'scaremongering'
PUBLISHED: 12:28 14 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:51 11 May 2010
THE man in the middle of a row over a council s housing stock transfer has warned a No vote will mean cuts. Cllr Simon Edwards, the housing portfolio holder on South Cambridgeshire District Council, said cost-cutting would be inevitable. But other council
THE man in the middle of a row over a council's housing stock transfer has warned a No vote will mean cuts.
Cllr Simon Edwards, the housing portfolio holder on South Cambridgeshire District Council, said cost-cutting would be inevitable.
But other councillors have condemned Cllr Edwards's stark warning.
Cllr Nigel Cathcart, who represents Bassingbourn on the district council and is opposed to the housing stock transfer to a housing association, described the statement as "purely scaremongering".
He said there was "sufficient money" for the district council to keep control of its housing stock .
The district council, he said, looked into the transfer of the housing stock in 1992 - and the idea was then rejected.
It was realised at the time, however, that the housing stock was in need of a long-term improvement programme.
The improvement programme was carried out over a 10 to 15 year period.
Cllr Cathcart said: "There will be money to keep houses in good condition.
"We will, obviously, have to avoid waste and that means having a careful look at budgets in the future, but we can maintain our housing stock perfectly adequately."
He added that Cllr Edwards's statement seemed to have been "in order to promote" the transfer of the housing stock.
Cllr Deborah Roberts, who is also vehemently opposed to the transfer of the housing stock, said she was concerned that the case for a No vote would be lost in a 70-page document being drawn-up for tenants.
"If it's in a document like that then it seems to be the caseof it being hidden from tenants," she said.
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She said it was "disgraceful" that the case against the housing stock transfer was being put out at such a stage in the process.
She said the real reason behind the district council looking to transfer the housing stock was to save on the costs of the £17.5 million new council headquarters in Cambourne.
In some council circles the building of the headquarters was seen as a "white elephant".
Council sites in Cambridge were sold for £12.5 million and £5.2 million was taken from the council right-to-buy accounts to pay towards the new building.
Cllr Roberts continued that the transfer of stock to a housing association was "nonsense" at the moment.
"Even housing associations have to borrow and they are struggling at the moment," she said.
Others are "empire-building", she said, which means a loss of local control.
"The advice I would give to all council tenants is to be very wary of the situation at the moment."
In his statement, Cllr Edwards said: "Although tenants are largely happy with the current level of service, we have to consider the sort of service they will receive in the future if the council continues as landlord.
"I'm afraid the latest details available to us means cuts to the level of service we are able to offer are unavoidable."
Cllr Edwards pointed out:
£900,000 worth of savings will need to be found from the housing revenue account by 2012-13. This funds the day-to-day services such as repairs and sheltered housing.
£3.9 million needs to be cut from the housing capital programme which funds improvments and major work by 2010-11.
His statement says that this would mean considering changes to services tenants receive.
Increasing service charges
Prioritising basic health and safety repairs
Ending assisted gardening and decoration schemes
Major reductions in grass-cutting and grounds maintenance services
Further reductions in the sheltered housing service
Risk losing the council's in-house repairs teams by putting work out to tender to private contractors
Reducing the resources to deal with anti-social behaviour and tenant participation.
The statement said that other savings could include a 50 per cent cut to kitchen and bathroom refurbishments; a 44 per cent cut to new heating installations; a 66 per cent cut to disabled adaptations; a 56 per cent cut to re-roofing and a 60 per cent to re-wiring work.
Cllr Edwards said the district council was handing over £11 million-a-year to central Government from rents and council homes sales.
"Transfer to a housing association would mean that this money would be available to invest in improving homes and services," he said.