A CRUNCH residents' vote has paved the way for the borough's 3,600 council houses to be taken out of Hyndburn Council's control.
A "tenants' jury'' of 12 voted unanimously for a stock transfer - handing over the homes to a new landlord such as a housing association - and now the final decision will be made by residents in a huge ballot next year. The jury had heard all the arguments at a series of roadshows.
Sylvia Robinson, vice-chairman of the Tenants' Participation Committee, said: "It's important to stress we are not selling out or selling off our stock but we see this as the best way forward. It was the best option because it means there will be more money to use in all kinds of ways to improve not just the inside of tenants' houses, but the outside as well.
"At the moment there's no money for fencing or anti-social behaviour mechanisms so this will enable us to do a lot more. And people will still have the right to buy. I can't really say how everyone will vote and it will be a considerable time before that ballot takes place. It can't be rushed because we could get it wrong."
Council leader Peter Britcliffe announced the tenants' decision at last week's full council meeting, and it was welcomed by housing portfolio holder, Councillor Tony Dobson.
He said: "We took a neutral position about the options so that the tenants' jury could make an informed decision. We are happy with its recommendation. We are all working towards bringing it to a vote some time next year. The big benefit with stock transfer is that a new landlord would be able to lever in more money to meet tenants' aspirations and not just have the bog-standard basic homes many have at present."
However, the decision has angered members of Hyndburn and Rossendale Trades Union Council. Secretary Peter Billington said: "We believe that council housing should remain in municipal ownership because it guarantees good social housing. The council argues there are insufficient funds to maintain quality housing stock but that's a problem for the Government which is not committed to municipal housing."
The trades council has organised a meeting at Accrington Town Hall next Thursday at 7.30pm to set up a group to oppose the plans.
Stock transfer was one of four options proposed by the council and would involve councillors and tenants' representatives sitting on a management board. The housing would be run by a not-for-profit organisation funded by public and private money which, unlike the council, would be able to borrow money to fund improvements.
The Housing Corporation would oversee its workings to ensure rents remained affordable and tenants' rights were not infringed. The other options were keeping the houses under council control, setting up an arms-length management organisation (ALMO) or setting up a private finance initiative.