Wednesday 22 September 2010

Is H&F Council’s Housing Consultation A Done Deal?

I didn’t think giving people a vote would be considered a controversial matter but at the Select Committee on Tuesday, 14th September the Conservatives refused to do it. Instead, they said a consultation will suffice.

The issue requiring a vote concerned the future management of all the council homes in the Borough. It’s reasonable to ask why? The answer being eighty eight per cent of council tenants and seventy seven per cent of leaseholders had only recently voted to transfer the management of their homes to a resident led arms length management board - as you can read on H&F Council’s website. Given the scale of the democratic mandate for this change it’s hard to not to see how another vote is needed to transfer it back.

The last vote was managed by the independent Electoral Reform Society. But this time, Cllr. Lucy Ivimy, the Cabinet Member for Housing, argued that a marketing company’s consultation would be enough.

Meanwhile, the attached advert for a new housing director appeared in the Sunday Times just two days earlier. This is a new post being advertised but it assumes there will be a direct housing management role – a role which is forbidden by the current arms length structure. So it’s not difficult to see how this Conservative Administration is, at the very least, confident that this “consultation” will produce “the right result”.

Cllr. Ivimy argued that this consultation is in fact a vote. But take a look at the attached page (Click on it to enlarge) from the Conservatives’ consultation. It does not look anything like any ballot paper I’ve ever seen before and that is only one of the many pages in their “consultation”. In fact, H&F Council have used a cynical psychological ploy that will allow them to count a 'Yes' vote if the resident ticks any of the first 3 of the 5 boxes on Q1.  Imagine the outrage if this technique was used to decide the outcome of any real elections - either here or abroad. 

It is not unknown for public bodies to go through the motions when “consulting”. Given this Conservative Administration’s highly controversial plans to knock down a quarter of all Council housing then it’s not hard to see why they want it all back in house as it would greatly smooth out this process.

The Opposition require a review of this consultation and methodoloy before we say we are in any way satisfied with its validity.

At the last elections my fellow Labour councillors and I campaigned for a different approach to managing our council housing. One that would have devolved more powers to residents on a much more local basis. But, like last time, we would have given all residents a vote. It is a concern that this Administration will not do that and given everything else they have said and done with social housing it’s hard to trust that they have the best interest of our current residents at heart.

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