Investment without strings, not stock transfer
That is what UNISON is campaigning for in the run up
to the tenants' ballot which could come as early as November
UNISON is warning that if Edinburgh's council housing
is transferred out, it can never come back 'in-house'.
That is why the Branch AGM in February voted unanimously
to campaign against stock transfer.
When housing staff are farmed off to new employers, the
evidence from all around the country is that they will
be at the mercy of broken promises on conditions.
Colleagues in other areas report poorer conditions and
the focus moving away from the range of housing support
tasks to rent collection only.
That is why UNISON wants to make sure there is a real
debate before tenants are balloted. We believe the huge
sums being poured into consultants and glossy propaganda
in the campaign for a yes vote would be better spent on
UNISON is opposed to housing stock transfers for a number
of reasons including
- the implications for staff,
- loss of democratic accountability
- the costs of transfer
- reduced choice for tenants.
A more effective alternative is direct investment using
investment allowances, creating a level playing field
between the different options.
Normally staff who spend 50% or more of their time on
the services the new housing body will provide will be
transferred. But what about the rest?
Other transfers have brought problems for IT, wages and
other staff. The Glasgow DLO lost the contract and had
to lay off staff. l
- Staff transferring to the new organisation will NO
LONGER be council employees. At the point of transfer
the council gives up all responsibility for staff.
- Transfer of Undertakings regulations (TUPE) only offer
protection at the moment of transfer.
- Pensions are not covered by TUPE.
- Eventually the new employer will want to impose their
own terms. Edinburgh Leisure refused to honour a national
- Glasgow Housing staff are facing redundancy threats
as £1.7 million is cut from the staffing budget. The
GHA also wants to replace annual pay awards and increments
with performance related pay.
- The new organisation will be much smaller with fewer
career opportunities and little chance of redeployment.
The principle at stake
- Stock transfer means privatisation of an essential
- Once transferred, there is no going back for staff
- Democratic control and accountability through elected
councillors will be lost. Take Edinburgh Leisure - they
often say things are the council's fault for cutting
money. The council says it's a separate organisation
and they can't interfere. No-one appears to be responsible.
- There is no demand from tenants for a change of landlord.
- Tenants are denied real choice. Real choice would
mean the council having the same access to funds as
a private body.
- The £1 billion promised is public money and should
be directly invested publicly without strings.
- The Treasury can write off debt for a private body,
so why not for the council?
Staff provide a good service
- The Housing Dept is not a failing organisation, so
why break it up?
- The Modernising Housing Agenda and Neighbourhood Management
initiative shows the service is developing and forward
- The plans are at odds with the much vaunted joint
working with social work, for example.
- It is ironic that just recently Housing staff were
being told that a merger with Social Work was the best
way forward. The hidden costs
Stock Transfer is not Best Value
- Vast sums are spent on publicity, set-up costs, consultants,
solicitors etc that could be spent directly on improving
- The Parliament Public Accounts Committee reported
that Stock Transfer costs £1,300 per tenancy more than
councils doing improvements themselves.
- The National Audit Office reports repairs and improvements
are expected to cost a third more after transfer - about
£1.3billion - than if councils did the work themselves.
Alternatives to Transfer
- Direct investment in Council Housing without strings
- Take council spending on housing out of the Public
Sector Borrowing Requirement as other European countries
- Urge the government to give an Investment Allowance
as revenues stream that would let councils borrow using
the new Prudential Borrowing arrangements.
The Government can be challenged
- Westminster is coming under more and more pressure
to make concessions to councils and tenants demanding
fair play and a level playing field.
- The Prudential Borrowing Framework was introduced
in April 2004 and allows some councils to borrow more.
This was a significant concession to the campaign to
defend council housing.
- The House of Commons Select Committee on Housing called
on the Government to end the injustice of tenants being
financially penalised for voting to keep the council
as their landlord.
- After pressure from the trade unions and the Defend
Council Housing campaign, the last Labour Party Conference
demanded that the same 'stock transfer' funds should
be available to councils if tenants vote to stay with