Transfer debate needs balance
PUBLISHED: 19:55 02 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:48 11 May 2010
AS independent tenants adviser for South Cambridgeshire I would like to respond to the points raised by John Taylor (Postbag, June 5) First, I believe there are some errors of fact in his letter. 1. To the best of my knowledge the council has NOT so far
AS independent tenants adviser for South Cambridgeshire I would like to respond to the points raised by John Taylor (Postbag, June 5)
First, I believe there are some errors of fact in his letter.
1. To the best of my knowledge the council has NOT "so far spent in excess of £600,000" on this project.
My understanding is that this figure was an estimate prepared by the council's former consultants of what total costs might be by the time a 2009 ballot is concluded. There is no current basis for the other figure of £1 million as far as I am aware.
2. It is not "only two years since tenants voted by a huge majority against transfer" in that there has never been a tenant ballot in South Cambridgeshire conducted on Government guide-lines for such ballots.
What there was in early 2005 was a question on attitudes to transfer contained in a questionnaire sent out by us.
Some 23 per cent of tenants only expressed a view, with more than 80 per cent of them opposed to transfer.
This was not a ballot and would not have met Government guide-lines for assessing tenant opinion. 3. In the event of transfer there is no "loss of security of tenure".
There is a loss of "secure tenancies", but the principle of "security of tenure" is common to both secure and assured periodic tenants (with the latter being the tenure to form any new transfer RSL (Registered Social Landlord) would be required to grant to transferring tenants).
I have seen no claim or impli-cation made by anyone from the council that "housing associations have an unlimited pot of money".
In my experience there are two, I believe, verifiable, claims:
1. That the current per annum district council rent loss of more than £8 million in the current year, but likely to be in the region of £10-£11 million in the near future, would not happen in the event of transfer.
That money would be retained by the RSL. This is, in many people's eyes, inequitable - but it is a consequence of Government housing finance policy.
2. A new RSL would have the capacity to borrow to fund an improvement programme in a way the council cannot now do so.
Mr Taylor's reference to "far higher" rents puzzles me. He will be aware that in 2002, the Government put both councils and RSLs on a path to rent convergence by 2012.
He will also be aware that the "target" rents set by that Government formula will thus ensure that council and RSL rents will be the same for similar properties in similar areas by 2012.
So rents for current district council properties will achieve that level with or without transfer.
I have no problem with "having a full debate on the issues", although Mr Taylor needs to be aware that councils are under no legal obligation to fund opponents of its policies about housing or any other issue.
But I hope he will accept that in any debate the only rational basis for discussion is on an accurate analysis of the facts - alternative views containing factual errors should not be confused with "balance".
DR STEVE SHARPLES
Independent Tenant Adviser