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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 16:20 GMT
Tenants reject housing transfer
Rural street - generic
More than 60% of tenants took part in the Highland vote
Highland Council tenants have voted against transferring ownership of 14,500 homes from the local authority to a private housing association.

More than 60% of tenants voted and 59.7% were against plans to transfer to Highland Housing Association.

Highland Council convener Alison Magee said: "The council will work hard and ensure that we continue to deliver the best possible housing service."

The Scottish Tenants Organisation said tenants had rejected privatisation.

The Scottish National Party said the Scottish Executive's policy on housing transfers was now "in tatters".

'Spin and blackmail'

Tenants Organisation Convenor John Carracher said: "It's great to see the tide turning in tenants' favour.

"More and more people are refusing to be tricked by spin and blackmail.

"The government must now reverse its disastrous policy of holding councils to ransom."

He called for council housing debt to be written off.

Angus Maclean, chair of Highland Housing Association, said: "Everyone involved with Highland Housing Association is disappointed that tenants have not voted in favour of transfer.

"We all believe that our proposals would have delivered quality services and improved housing standards while ensuring that rents remained affordable, but the majority of tenants have voted to stay with the council and we obviously respect their decision."

The plain fact is that the council cannot offer the generous package that would have been delivered through a yes vote
Malcolm Chisholm
Communities Minister

Both Highland Council leaders and executive ministers had urged tenants to support the proposal, which would see the authority's 160m housing debt wiped out by the Treasury and 1,000 more houses built.

The authority had warned that the average rent would rise to 83-a-week in eight years if the transfer did not go ahead.

Five "wholesale" stock transfers have already taken place across Scotland - in Glasgow, the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, Western Isles and Argyll and Bute.

However, tenants in Renfrewshire, Stirling and Edinburgh voted against transfers.

A ballot of Inverclyde tenants will end on 30 November.

Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said he was "disappointed" with the result.

New homes - generic
Campaigners are calling for more affordable housing

"Each transfer package is different and I urge tenants in Inverclyde to look closely at what is on offer to them in terms of rent levels, investment and tenant involvement and decide on that basis," he said.

"We will continue to work with Highland Council, but the plain fact is that the council cannot offer the generous package that would have been delivered through a yes vote to transfer."

There had been opposition to the stock transfer from groups such as Highlands Against Stock Transfer (Hast).

Following the ballot, Donnie Kerr, chair of Hast, said the group's campaign had "exposed the false promises of the stock transfer policy".

"This vote is yet another nail in the coffin of housing privatisation and a vindication of those who chose to stand up to it against overwhelming odds," he said.

"The lack of affordable housing both to rent and buy is a huge issue in the Highlands and has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue of changing landlord."

He called on the communities minister to make funds available to make an impact on the housing shortage.

SNP housing spokeswoman Tricia Marwick said: "This is yet another monumental blow to the Labour and Lib Dem government's flagship stock transfer policy which now lies in tatters.

"It is vital that Highland tenants are not now punished for practising their democratic right. Ministers must put pressure on the treasury for full capital debt write off with no preconditions."

Highest ever

Meanwhile, the deal to complete the handover of Argyll and Bute Council's housing to an association has been signed off.

The authority holds the record for the highest ever "yes" vote in a housing ballot, with almost 90% of tenants voting for the transfer.

Almost 5,400 homes are now in the hands of Argyll Community Housing Association Limited.

The association will have more than 260m available to spend on improving homes over the next 30 years.

Argyll and Bute Council's housing loan debt of 48m will be written off by the executive.

In September, the ownership of nearly 1,900 council homes in the Western Isles was transferred to a housing association.

The multi-million pound deal saw the properties pass from the control of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) to the Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP).

It meant the council's housing debt of 38m has been written off by the Treasury and 12.5m secured for new affordable housing.


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SEE ALSO
Ballot on housing transfer begins
30 Oct 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Warning against housing rejection
24 Oct 06 |  Tayside and Central
Residents reject housing transfer
18 Oct 06 |  Glasgow and West
Anti-transfer group launches site
22 Sep 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Step forward for homes transfer
14 Sep 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Isles council houses transferred
13 Sep 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Highlands housing transfer move
08 Sep 06 |  Highlands and Islands

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