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Councillors in West Dunbartonshire have abandoned plans to transfer up to 5,000 homes to housing associations.

Tenants were due to be balloted in September about the proposal, which would have seen the authority shed almost half its 10,500 housing stock.

West Dunbartonshire will now invest £95m so the houses meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015.

Councillors decided this was the best option for tenants and would best protect jobs and services.

The local authority’s housing convener, Councillor David McBride, said: “This is a really positive decision by the council which is in the best interests of our valued tenants.

Job fears

“It was by no means certain that tenants were going to vote for partial stock transfer and a no vote would have delayed essential housing improvements and prevented us meeting the Scottish Housing Quality Standards by 2015.

“There were also concerns over the lack of regeneration investment associated with the existing bids, continuing uncertainty on rent levels and fears over council job losses.”

Mr McBride said the decision would answer “all those questions” and ensure that the authority would be “a major housing provider for the next 30 years at least”.

It is hoped the change of policy will allow demolition of surplus stock at Bellsmyre, Glenside and North Mountblow to proceed sooner than previously planned.

The council has also committed to investing £3.6m in regenerating areas across West Dunbartonshire.

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http://www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/news/council-ends-partial-stock-transfer-and-votes-to-retain-10500-homes/?vAction=fntUp

Council ends partial stock transfer and votes to retain 10,500 homes

West Dunbartonshire Council has taken the dramatic decision to halt the partial stock transfer process and will now retain all of its existing 10,500 homes.The move was agreed at yesterday’s Council meeting after Councillors considered a range of options that would enable the Council’s housing stock to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015Councillor David McBride, Convener of Housing, Environmental and Economic Development, said that retaining the housing stock was the best option for tenants and would also be the best way of protecting Council jobs and services.

The Council had previously planned to hold an independent ballot in September asking tenants to vote on transferring up to 5,000 homes to local housing associations.

The Council will now invest approximately £95 million into improving the standard of its homes so they are fit for the 21st century.

In addition demolition of surplus stock at Bellsmyre, Glenside and North Mountblow will proceed and hopefully take place sooner than previously planned.

The move increases the Council’s ability to continue to meet its statutory housing obligations and ensures that housing services remain democratically accountable.

There will also be an investment of around £3.6 million in regenerating areas across West Dunbartonshire.

Tenants will have to contribute towards the cost of improving their homes with rents estimated to increase annually by around seven percent for the next five years. While this will certainly have an impact on tenants it should be acknowledged that the Council’s current rents are amongst the lowest of all Scottish Councils and considerably cheaper than local housing associations.

Councillor McBride added: “This is a really positive decision by the Council which is in the best interests of our valued tenants. It was by no means certain that tenants were going to vote for partial stock transfer and a no vote would have delayed essential housing improvements and prevented us meeting the Scottish Housing Quality Standards by 2015.  There were also concerns over the lack of regeneration investment associated with the existing bids, continuing uncertainty on rent levels and fears over Council job losses. This decision answers all those questions and ensures that West Dunbartonshire Council will be a major housing provider for the next 30 years at least.

“We recognise that there are real challenges and opportunities ahead for this Council but we have the capacity and determination to overcome the obstacles and deliver the improvements in the quality of our housing.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those tenant groups and individuals who have engaged with the Council in recent years on the partial stock transfer process. Your valuable feedback, comments and views will still be important in shaping how this Council manages its housing stock in future years.

“I’d also like to thank all the staff who have worked so hard in a short period of time to prepare a detailed report that set out the options the Council had available, and allowed us to take an important decision that will ensure we achieve the SHQS standard by 2015.”

Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, Depute Convener, said: “We are delighted to be able to remove the uncertainty created by partial stock transfer process and agree a way forward that ensures that every tenant will have a home that meets the Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015.

“Retaining the housing stock also secures the future of the Council services and local jobs that support those tenants, and gives us the scope to look at how we can improve our services moving forward.

“I also feel strongly that tenants will be reassured to know that the services they receive will now remain democratically accountable. Stock retention means Councillors will continue to play a key role in shaping housing services and ensuring they meet the demands of our tenants.”

Councillors also committed to:

  • A 100% stock condition survey which will support the Council’s commitment to meet the SHQS
  • The development of a comprehensive Asset Management Strategy to direct and protect investment in housing stock and determine a programme of disposal
  • Investment in new models of temporary accommodation to ensure that the Council has robust and affordable services in place to discharge its statutory responsibilities
  • Meeting the needs of customers to pursue a programme of new build Council housing within the capacity of the HRA
  • Seek a strategic partner which is financially and managerially able to take forward housing regeneration in West Dunbartonshire
  • Engage with tenants productively to shape our future plans and implementation of these decisions.

Tenants will be written to in the coming weeks with detailed information on what this decision means for them and the timetable for future improvements.

21 June 2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-18534198

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