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ppp Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK
Campaign aims to halt stock transfer
CAHST banner
The campaign has been vociferous
By BBC News Online Scotland's Thomas McGuigan

Sean Clerkin said he cares passionately about the council tenants of Glasgow.

He is concerned about what he sees as an attempt to force them into a corner.

The chairman of the Campaign Against Housing Stock Transfer (CAHST) is unequivocal in his opposition to the transfer of stock from local authority to housing association control.

"We object to it because it is privatisation of public sector housing which will lead to higher rents for tenants within five years," he said, when interviewed at Glasgow's Drumchapel council estate.

"It will also lead to higher council tax for all of Glasgow's citizens. Essentially it is privatisation too far."

Sean Clerkin
Sean Clerkin: "The tenants will decide"

Glasgow City Council's Policy and Resources Committee will meet on 13 September to decide whether to put the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) proposal to the tenants for ballot in November.

Mr Clerkin believes the ballot should be delayed indefinitely because tenants have not heard both sides of the argument.

But the council insists it is engaged in a democratic process.

Mr Clerkin said tenants have to be given the opportunity to stay in the communities they desire, deserve better housing from the council and that these things should be provided under the banner of public sector housing.

But surely the GHA will be able to gather the finance necessary to repair dilapidated stock and renovate Glasgow's housing stock.

Should this not be tenants' overriding concern, housing they are happy to live with irrespective of how the repairs are funded?

None of the tenants in Glasgow ever asked for the housing stock transfer

Sean Clerkin

"This is a bogus argument," Mr Clerkin said.

"The housing stock is in disrepair and nobody is arguing to retain the status quo.

"Everyone is in favour of change, but it depends what you mean by change.

"We (the campaign) want a new start for public sector housing, the 1bn housing debt written off. If that debt was written-off it would release 132m in this financial year to refurbish and repair the housing stock in Glasgow."

Mr Clerkin believes that tenants do not want the housing stock transfer to go through and that neither the council nor the Scottish Executive has properly asked the tenants what they want.

"We have argued consistently when giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament that we want the reinstatement of housing support grants which were in existence until 1989.

"Instead of the situation where we are sitting in Drumchapel today and the council is going to rip down 100,000 houses, we could avoid this scenario with the housing support grant in place.

"People could stay in their communities, in decent, warm housing rather than having to move from the communities where they have always lived."

The campaign appears to run counter to the majority of political parties in Scotland, so why does the campaign feel the politicians have got it wrong?

'Bogus plan'

"The Scottish National Party and the Scottish Socialists are opposed to the transfer and their policies are very clear," Mr Clerkin said.

"They favour reinvestment in public sector housing. This whole initiative has been driven by New Labour. All I would say to them is 'why did you introduce this in the first place?'

"None of the tenants in Glasgow ever asked for the housing stock transfer, none of them ever suggested this course of action.

"Why didn't the government and the elected politicians come and ask the tenants what they wanted?"

So what is the real problem here?

Surely the transfer will decentralise power, help tenants and put them at the forefront of community projects in the future?

Mr Clerkin said: "Well it's not community driven nor does it encourage community participation.

"It has everything to do with money, profit and higher costs for tenants.

"The GHA's Business Plan is a bogus plan. The cost of the secondary transfer runs into many millions of pounds.

Rundown housing
Mr Clerkin says tenants need more time

"The cost of setting up the GHA is not insignificant either, 800m in transfer costs will have to be paid for through higher council tax and higher rents.

"The private lenders that have been approached by the GHA are not going to give loans for repairs out of the goodness of their hearts.

"The guarantee that rents will not rise above the rate of inflation in the first five years after transfer is a false one.

"The idea of community control and community ownership is simply not true, the real ownership will lie with the private institutions that set the lending contract with the GHA."

But if the ballot goes ahead as planned in November and tenants vote in favour of the transfer, where will that leave the campaign?

"That is not going to arise because tenants are not going to vote in favour of the transfer," Mr Clerkin said.

'Political will'

"They are going to vote against it and by voting 'no' they will be saying 'yes' to a new start for public sector housing.

"Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

"We have taken soundings from throughout the city and we believe the majority of tenants want the ballot delayed at least.

"It is not like health or education when the government can just push through the changes against people's wishes.

"The tenants of this great city will have the final say in this matter. What we need is new investment, the money is there, it is just a matter of political will."

A spokesman for the council said: "Glasgow City Council is currently consulting all its tenants on the principle of stock transfer and some of the broader implications of going down this road.

"While some of the Glasgow Housing Association's ideas and guarantees are being discussed, their final business plan has not yet been finalised or approved by the council.

"If this plan is approved by the council at a later date, transfer cannot take place without a 'yes' vote from a majority of tenants who vote in a postal ballot."

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