Lee Mason the Leader of the Northampton Labour Group in a letter published in the Chronicle & Echo is absolutely right in explaining why Labour Is Saying VOTE NO to Large Scale Housing Transfer,
The decisions taken unanimously by the Northampton Borough Council Conservative councillors to spend £2 million over the next two years to effect transfer of the town’s 12,200 council houses and land, including sheltered housing to a Registered Social Landlord (what is commonly known as Housing Associations) will fail.
It will fail because of the arrogant and “we know best so don’t need to consult attitude and approach” of the Borough Council Leadership that has isolated and prevented any meaningful discussion which may have led to a consensus with the other political groups on the council or with residents representative groups.
In 2005 I had responsibility for carrying out a “Stock Option Appraisal” as required by Government legislation and took the approach that it was of such importance to the tenants and people of Northampton that an all-party apolitical approach was required.
Thankfully other parties responded to the approach and had representatives on the project board that oversaw the consultation process and agreed that it would be a fair and open process in which a ballot of all tenants would be on what the final decision would be based.
There were of course some obstacles and problems with what is a complicated and complex issue, especially around agreeing what constitutes Independent Advice to tenants who should provide the pros and cons of staying with the Borough Council as their landlord or transfer responsibility to a Social Landlord.
They were obstacles that were dealt with as the came up in a sensible and responsible way with all parties working together.
The result as history shows was that of those who voted the overwhelming wish of the tenants was to stay with the Northampton Borough Council and that was proposed and accepted by full council.
I have no problem personally in entering into a consultation with tenants on if they are satisfied with Northampton Borough Council Housing services and whether they still wish to have Northampton Borough Council as their landlord and would like to move to some other landlord option.
My problem is that this should not cost £2 million and could easily be done by a simple but detailed tenant consultation which was proposed by Labour and rejected by the Conservative administration with statements in the press that they believe “transfer is the way forward”.
In making the decision to transfer without discussing the issue in any meaningful way with the Labour and Liberal Democrats they have in reality created a situation that was avoided in 2005, that of total opposition across the whole town.
I have recently put a survey out in the Billing Ward to residents who live in Bellinge and Ecton Brook in which it is clear that tenants will overwhelmingly reject and vote against any threat to transfer their homes from the Council being the landlord.
The most emotional charged statement on the survey was from an 87-year-old resident, who said on her survey return,
“I have lived in this house for 30 years. I will not be removed or be reallocated to another property ever, until I die!!!N.B.C. LISTEN to your tenants!!! Thank you “
The Conservative Leader of the Council should now apologise for what is a disastrous and expensive decision that is doomed to fail and demonstrates a level of contempt for those who value the housing landlord services provided by the Northampton Borough Council.
The lack of consultation before making this decision is another PR blunder which along with the Bus Station, St John’s University Flats, cuts to Public safety and policing is now a familiar pattern and brings into question the competence of the administration in the Guildhall.
Labour have taken a very firm position and is opposed to Large Scale Stock Transfer and will be canvassing all council tenants to vote NO in any future ballot.
We will now have to wait and see if the Conservatives go ahead with spending £2 million on a project that is going to fail and is fast becoming a decisive issue across Northampton that may well damage any future chances of co-operation between the political parties on other issues.