GUEST COLUMN: Time to bring housing service back ‘in house,’ by Coun Keir Morrison

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The Labour group at Ashfield District Council has proposed to bring the housing service back ‘in house’ and now public consultation has been completed and all results have been placed in the public domain, in preparation for full council to make a decision as to whether or not to accept the proposal.

Contrary to some reports by opposition councillors the consultation has been thorough, robust and has gauged the views of a wide range of council tenants and residents. Three thousand tenants were selected at random, via a posted letter, to invite their views on the stock options process, this ensured the council consulted with tenants that are young and old, disabled, ethnic and from a good geographical spread across the district whilst also providing a cost effective consultation.

Tenants, residents, leaseholders, staff representatives and trade unions have all given feedback. Outside of the 3,000 tenant sample anybody who wanted to fill in a consultation form could do so online or hard copy, this ensured that no one was denied the opportunity to have their say.

I am pleased to report that following the analysis of the consultation responses 64 per cent are supportive of our proposals to bring the service back in house. However it’s important to understand what that means.

Bringing the service back ‘in house’ will save the council £500,000 a year, ending duplication of tasks and removing organisational barriers between the council and Ashfield Homes, creating a more efficient way of working. This figure has been validated by the Council’s auditors KPMG. Savings that are made will be used to improve housing service delivery. The council has also given a commitment to retain all front line housing services and jobs so staff will be transferred from Ashfield Homes back to the council.

If the proposals are accepted, the council will look to create a ‘housing scrutiny panel’ that can measure performance and also continue with the tenants and residents structures currently in place and in line with the current ‘tenant’s charter’.

The council will consult and act upon tenant’s priorities and suggestions where they would like to see money spent on the housing service – that’s why this proposal puts tenants first.

The proposals to bring back the housing service also ties in with our housing strategy priorities to be more sustainable and energy efficient, to create a suitable and available council house building programme, to bring more empty homes back into use, to tackle homelessness and finally to crack down on rogue private landlords by implementing a selective licensing registration scheme.

Your Labour councillors at Ashfield District Council have already delivered the first round of sustainable, quality council housing (Brook St and Darlison Court) – new council house building that has taken 30 years to achieve since the last council house was constructed in the district.

That is why I am confident that Labour, at Ashfield District Council has the ability, innovation and vision to create a quality, holistic housing service that will put tenants first.

The decision to bring the housing service back ‘in house’ or not will be taken at the full council public meeting on Thursday evening, 7pm on April 14, 2016 at Ashfield District Council.