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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
Row over council house transfers
A row has broken out over the transfer of thousands of council houses in Prime Minister, Tony Blair's constituency.

Sedgefield Borough Council wants tenants to agree to a transfer of 9,200 homes to the Sunderland Housing Group.

But union leaders have condemned the move, claiming it will result in a poorer service for tenants.

Council bosses say the transfer will bring 129m worth of improvements to homes which have to meet government "decency levels" by 2010.

The general secretary of the trade union UNISON, Dave Prentis, urged tenants in the borough, which includes areas like Spennymoor and Newton Ayclife, to vote against the plan in a ballot.

Current standards

He said : "It's scandalous that the council in the prime minister's own constituency should be carrying out this ballot when there is no need to do so.

"Sedgefield borough can already meet the government's decent homes standard in the time allowed with 47m left over to improve them even further.

"I would urge all tenants to vote no to stock transfer. It's in their interests to stay with the council - they will get the improvements they want and they will continue to have a real say in how their homes are maintained and improved."

But a spokesman for Sedgefield Borough Council said: "The reality is the council does not have the money to bring homes up to the standard tenants want - and will not be able to keep them that way in the future.

"Staying as we are is no longer an option, the council would find it difficult to maintain current standards and services - without reducing the existing investment programme.

"Sedgefield Housing would be based in the borough and would be able to invest more than 129m to improve homes, services and communities.

"It's not a case of better the devil you know, staying with the council would not bring the level of investment or improvements tenants have been saying they want."


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