PLYMOUTH HOUSING TRANSFER – ‘fraught with dangers’ warns Unite

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South East London Council of Action march in Southwark against the demolition of council housing
South East London Council of Action march in Southwark against the demolition of council housing

‘We continue to believe that stock transfer is fraught with financial hazards,’ Unite said yesterday after it was announced that Plymouth council tenants have voted to transfer their tenancies to a new housing association.

Unite warned that it will be watching to ensure that promises made to the tenants by both the local authority and Plymouth Community Homes are kept.

Peter Allenson, Unite national organiser for the services sector, said: ‘We are bitterly disappointed with the news that Plymouth’s council tenants have voted to opt out of local council management.

‘We continue to believe that stock transfer is fraught with financial hazards, and question whether using £200 million of public funds to offload council housing, hitting the jobs of up to 150 people in the process, makes any sense in the current economic climate.

‘All sorts of inducements, from rent freezes to refurbished bathrooms, were made to tenants left fed-up after years of neglect by their council.’

Unite is concerned that proposals to transfer about 15,000 properties to a new organisation, Plymouth Community Homes, are financially unstable.

The local authority needs £200 million of central government funding to support the transfer to PCH, money that is expected to come from bankrupt banks and financial institutions which are still reluctant to lend, and from central government that is thinking only about the needs of bankers.

Unite has also strongly disputed that new bathrooms and kitchens will be forthcoming once stock transfer from the Tory-controlled local authority to the new body takes place.

The union has expressed fears that the transfer process will cause up to 150 council jobs, including maintenance staff and park keepers, to be out-sourced to private contractors with possible long-term adverse affects on their employment conditions.

The decision to transfer the housing stock was taken by the Tories in 2000.

Tenants voted on 17th November, 2008 to accept stock transfer. 7,000 voted yes out of a total vote by 11,000 tenants.

The transfer will affect Plymouth’s 15,000 council tenants.

• Lloyds TSB shareholders yesterday voted in favour of taking over HBOS as well as taking government bail-out cash.

Members of the Unite union had demonstrated outside the Lloyds TSB Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) in Glasgow, against the 40,000 job losses likely to result from the deal.

Unite members lobbying the meeting wore t-shirts with slogans saying: ‘SECURE JOBS = SECURE BANK’ to remind shareholders that the voice of employees must not be ignored.

They leafleted shareholders as they entered the meeting and also asked questions inside the EGM on: union recognition, proposed cost savings, offshoring and pay.

But Lloyds TSB shareholders voted 95.98% in favour of the takeover.

They also approved plans to raise £5.5bn by issuing new shares and special preference shares.

Lloyds TSB chairman Sir Victor Blank said: ‘This is an overwhelming endorsement for the logic of this transaction.’

The government has allowed the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB to bypass normal competition rules.