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Crunch vote for residents on future of council houses

COUNCIL house tenants in Hyndburn are to be given a vote on what happens to their homes amid a need for large-scale investment.

COUNCIL house tenants in Hyndburn are to be given a vote on what happens to their homes amid a need for large-scale investment.

They will be asked to choose between keeping things as they are and one of three other options including selling the entire council house stock to a housing association.

The council is carrying out a major appraisal with the aim of making sure all council housing meets minimum Government standards, known as the Decent Homes Standard, by 2010.

At present 664 of the council's 3,600 homes are non-decent and £2m is needed to bring them up to scratch. A further 2,544 homes could fall into non-decency by 2010 and £6.1m would have to be spent to prevent this happening.

Taking account of cash that needs to be spent on catch-up repairs, future major work, major repair contingencies and regular maintenance, the cost of preserving the borough's council homes to a decent standard could be a whopping £154m over the next 30 years.

This need for investment, says the council, makes it essential for all options to be considered, taking into account the views, expectations and aspirations of tenants.

A Stock Options Appraisal Board has been set up, made up of tenants, leaseholders, representatives of elderly services, trade union Unison, councillors, officers and various partners in the community.

And a company called Ind-igo Training and Consultancy has been appointed to give independent advice to tenants.

The Appraisal Board will eventually recommend which option the council should pursue. But whatever it decides, unless it's the status quo, will have to be approved by tenants in a ballot, which could take place as early as next spring or early summer.

Before then there will be an extensive period of consultation. A tenants' panel has been formed which will put together a wide-ranging programme of training and information events for tenants, including roadshows and study visits to towns which have pursued different options.

Next Wednesday there will be a Citizens' Jury - a day-long event which will allow tenants to question key figures including Housing Director Ken Bury and Councillor Tony Dobson, Cabinet portfolio holder for housing.

Steps are being taken to ensure tenants' views are at the heart of the decision-making process and a series of newsletters are being sent out.

Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "The key part of the whole process is the involvement of tenants every step of the way. Changes will only be made by tenants deciding what is best.''

Councillor Dobson said: "We are looking at options that will bring in more money for repairs and improvements to council homes. A key part of this is that tenants and all stakeholders will be kept fully involved in the process.

"Tenants will steer the way forward, they will not lose their homes whatever option is chosen and they will not lose the right to buy. Rents will not increase dramatically, they will be kept at similar levels.

"Finally, and most importantly, I want to reiterate that nothing will change without tenants deciding what is best for Hyndburn homes.''


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist