Wiltshire

Ballot to sell off Swindon's council houses to close

A ballot of up to 10,500 council house tenants in Swindon voting on whether their homes should be sold to a private housing association, closes later.

Conservative-controlled 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.

Tenants have until 1200 GMT to vote for or against the transfer.

According to the council, the proposal to transfer its housing stock to an independent housing association is being driven by changes to the way all councils will pay for housing from 1 April.

The authority said the new "self-financing" system will mean it would have to borrow an estimated extra £145m to pay the government for part of the national housing debt.

Councillor Russell Holland, in charge of housing, said although there were financial advantages, the council's position was "for the tenants to make that decision".

"If they stay with the council we will arrange a loan of £140m and that will be financed from their rents," he said.

"Rents will be set by central government but instead of rent money being spent on doing improvements to houses it will be used to pay off that debt."

Critics of the proposals believe the sell-off does not represent good value for money for the council or a good service for tenants.

Previously 78% of tenants who took part in a consultation in 2009 were against the idea of selling off the homes.

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