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Waverley to privatise housing stock

Keith Parkins | 18.01.2005 16:01 | Analysis | Repression | Social Struggles | South Coast

Waverley, in complete disregard of the wishes of its council tenants, has voted to sell off its council housing stock.

'Public financing of housing doesn't treat local authorities on a level playing field and I want to see that changed and I promised to do that ...' -- John Prescott

The ballot was rigged from the start. There was no real choice. Last year, Waverley decided not to allow its tenants the option of remaining with the council. The information pushed out to tenants was blatant pro-privatisation propaganda.

The tenants were given two choices: an ALMO or stock transfer to a housing association. The one choice the tenants preferred, remain with the council, was not even on the ballot paper.

The tenants voted for what they saw as the lesser of two evils, an ALMO, not realising that this is halfway to full privatisation.

52% of tenants voted for an ALMO, 48% stock transfer to a housing association.

The councillors, once again demonstrated their arrogant contempt for their tenants, by ignoring the ballot and voting 33 to 17 for stock transfer to a housing association.

Why did Waverley go to the time, trouble and expense of a ballot, only to ignore the result?

Only around half the tenants bothered to vote as they knew the whole thing was rigged from the start.

Both the officers, and the so-called 'independent' consultants recommended privatisation. For the senior officers, who pushed privatisation as hard as they could, they were looking forward to a nice little gravy train.

The level of ignorance is amazing. In the council debate, discredited councillor and housing supremo Victor Scrivens, recommended that the council go for the ALMO option as desired by the tenants as the council would retain control. He had missed the whole point of an ALMO which is that the council does not retain control, which is why it is called an arms length management organisation.

Dome were the 'independent' advisers to the tenants. Dome are also acting as consultants to Pavilion Housing Association. In a private briefing to Rushmoor last year, Pavilion said if the merger with Eastleigh-based Atlantic goes ahead, the merged group intend to takeover Waverley housing.

No conflict of interest there then.

Waverley have done everything possible to attempt to silence critics, including trying to evict people from meetings, and Scrivens and another councillor attempting crude intimidation of critics to silence them (referrals are being made to the Standards Board for England).

Scrivens is facing pressure to quit as Waverley housing supremo for his shenanigans as a Farnham town councillor, for which he has been suspended for several months.

Waverley though, in their arrogant contempt of their tenants, may have backed themselves into a corner. Before the housing stock may be sold off, they have to ballot their tenants yet again. If tenants say no, and the council having already rejected an ALMO, the housing will default to the status quo, ie remain with the council.

Waverley is to set up a board and a housing association on the assumption that the tenants will vote yes. Money can be found for this, for pro-privatisation propaganda, but not for investment in people's homes. Maybe the District Auditor should be asked to investigate.

Five quisling tenants have been elected to the board on an abysmal turnout. The security surrounding both the distribution of ballot papers and the ballot itself, was non-existent. People who were not tenants, who did not even live in Waverley, had copies of the ballot papers.

If these five quisling tenants genuinely cared about their fellow tenants, they would be fighting the housing sell-off tooth and nail. At the very least, they'd be setting up an action group and leading the fight. But no, they are more interested in their own self-importance and a seat on the board.

Five Waverley councillors will also sit on the housing association board. They have shown their concern for the tenants, by voting 33 to 17 for the housing sell-off.

Everyone has the right to a decent, secure, well-maintained home. No one should be forced to give up security of tenure on the false promise of new kitchens and bathrooms. And if these promises do materialise, they will be paid for on the back of rent increases. No one should be forced to give up the council as their landlord in exchange for a Rachman private landlord whose only interest in the tenants will be the amount of profit that can be sweated out of their homes.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has reneged on his promise given at last year's Labour Party Conference to create a level playing field. Across the country, individuals, councillors and councils, are lobbying Prescott to create a level playing field, where councils will receive the same funding as housing associations.

If Waverley councillors genuinely cared about their tenants, they too would be lobbying Prescott.

Waverley tenants would do well to heed the advice of Frank Dobson MP: ' If you've got a ballot coming up, fight like hell to persuade people to vote no - the more people who reject it the better chance we have of overturning this stupid policy.'


Bid to remove Scrivens from office fails, Farnham Herald, 14 January 2005

Council takes decision to sell off its homes, Farnborough News, 14 January 2005

Councillors vote not to end colleague's housing brief, Farnborough News, 14 January 2005

D-day looms for 5,500 tenants, Farnham Herald, 7 January 2005

Kelly Frank, Waverley opts to sell off 5,200 tenants' homes, Farnham Herald, 14 January 2005

Keith Parkins, Privatisation of council houses in Waverley, Indymedia UK, 17 February 2004

Keith Parkins, Waverley to force through housing sell off, Indymedia UK, 19 October 2004

Keith Parkins, Waverley propaganda on housing privatisation, Indymedia UK, 22 October 2004

Keith Parkins, Waverley housing privatisation propaganda, Indymedia UK, 26 October 2004

Keith Parkins, Pavilion chief executive resigns!, Indymedia UK, 18 January 2005

Tenants elect Shadow Board, Farnham Herald, 31 December 2004

Keith Parkins
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