Swindon Borough Council tenants have voted to remain with the Council rather than switching to a new, local housing association.
In the secret ballot of the Council’s secure tenants conducted by Electoral Reform Services between 1 and 30 December 2011, 2329 (27.7%) voted in favour of the transfer, while 6073 (72.3%) voted against. The turnout was 65.6%, which compares well against votes in other similar sized authorities.
This means that the proposal to create Swindon Housing Association to take ownership and management of the Council’s homes will not go ahead.
Cabinet member for Housing, Communities and One Swindon, Cllr Russell Holland said: “Right from the start, the Council’s view was that there were benefits to transfer, but that it was up to tenants to decide how to vote. We worked hard to make sure that everyone got clear, factual information about the reasons for the proposal and what it meant for them. I’m delighted that so many people took the chance to have their say, and we will respect their decision.”
Labour Group leader Jim Grant added: “I welcome the clear outcome of the ballot and would like to thank the 66% of Swindon Council house tenants who voted. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a housing ballot anywhere in the country with such an overwhelming majority of tenants voting No to transfer.”
The result means that the Council will continue to own and manage its 10,500 homes across the borough. Under the new self-financing system for council housing, which comes into effect on 1 April, the Council will have to borrow and pay an extra £139.6 million to the Government as its share of the national housing debt.
The Council’s Director of Housing, Leisure, Libraries and Culture, Bernie Brannan, explained what this will mean for tenants. He said: “The extra borrowing we’ll have to take on under the new housing finance system will limit the amount of money the Council has to spend on improving homes and services over the next ten years. But we will of course continue to do our very best to provide the highest standards possible within the resources available to us.
“We will keep tenants informed about future plans and are committed to carrying on our partnerships and work with local residents’ and community groups. My thanks to everyone who voted in the ballot and who took part in the Swindon Housing Vote process.”
Mr Brannan also welcomed the strong turnout in the ballot. “We had a very short time in which to plan and arrange the consultation and ballot, so I’m really pleased that such a high proportion of our tenants took part in the vote. We had a duty to make sure people were fully aware of the options available and had an opportunity to make their views known. The ballot turnout shows that all our efforts to explain and communicate about the Swindon Housing Vote were worthwhile” he said.
All Council tenants and leaseholders were consulted about the detail of the transfer proposal between August and November 2011.