Wiltshire

Tenants to vote on selling off Swindon's council houses

Up to 11,000 council house tenants in Swindon are being asked to vote on whether their homes should be sold to a private housing association.

Swindon Borough Council says under a new government funding scheme it cannot afford to modernise its properties.

By transferring 10,000 council houses to a not-for-profit organisation, the authority says it can save money.

The decision to ballot council house tenants was made at a meeting held at the council on Wednesday.

The Labour leader on the Conservative-led council, Councillor Jim Grant, said that balloting was a costly exercise for a scheme that was rejected two years ago.

£145m debt

"When this came up in 2009, 78% of people consulted rejected the idea," he said.

"And if the vote goes against the council, that £600,000 will be charged to all council taxpayers, not just tenants."

Councillor Brian Mattock, cabinet member for health, housing and adult social care, said that in the test vote only "a number were against" the proposal.

"There was a big block in the middle that said they needed more information."

He added: "The new financial arrangements for Swindon means that on the 1st of April, if we do nothing, tenants - not the council - will be saddled with £145m worth of extra debt.

"They would have to pay £14m to service that debt and it will mean that they will get a lower standard of improvement and repair."

Tenants will be asked to vote for or against transferring the ownership and management of their council houses to a not-for-profit organisation in the autumn.

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