Talking West Cheshire

Council sets the records straight over Union's Ellesmere Port housing claims

5 October 2010

Union claims that Cheshire West and Chester Council is trying to ‘privatise’ the Ellesmere Port and Neston Housing Service have been condemned as ‘misleading, mischievous and grossly inaccurate‘.

Today (Tuesday) the Council hit back strongly at the allegations contained in a leaflet distributed jointly by four unions, Unison, Unite, UCATT and GMB.

The Council is currently consulting with its 5,600 tenants on proposals to outsource the management of the service to an experienced provider with a proven track record of success.

The process is being carried out with the support of the Community Housing Panel, which represents tenants and leaseholders and has approved all the consultation material, and observed by an Independent Tenant Advisor.

Whilst the service - a legacy from the former borough council - is improving under the new authority, the authority believes that the proposal is the quickest way to achieve the standards that tenants, Cheshire West and Chester Council and Government expect and deserve.

Said Council Leader Mike Jones: “In the interests of truth we need to set the record straight on union allegations which are misleading, mischievous and grossly inaccurate.

“First and foremost, in relation to so-called ‘privatisation’, it has been made quite clear to our tenants that the Council will retain ownership of the housing stock, continue to be the landlord and retain full responsibility for all landlord and strategic housing functions.

“Suggestions that we are trying to ‘reverse a vote’ of tenants taken five years ago under the former authority are therefore deliberately misleading - simply because the consultation subject is management and not stock ownership.”

“Yet, despite the fact that we have made tenants aware of all these facts, the Unions mischievously attempt to confuse them by asking them to vote on the issue suggesting it is the same which prompted a ballot five years ago.”

Added the Leader: “Neither, as suggested, will the new proposals enable the Council to ‘dump their responsibility’ onto an organisation not democratically accountable to tenants.

“In fact, as we have stressed in all the consultation material, this authority, through its elected members, will retain full control of the service.

“In other words, we will still own the houses, decide on policy, set rents and, in conjunction with tenants, determine investment and service priorities.”

The union leaflet also suggested that ‘the Council has asked expensive consultants to undertake a broader consultation'.

In fact the authority is carrying out the consultation itself and has engaged an Independent Tenant Advisor to assist tenants, with all responses scrutinised by the Community Housing Panel.

Said Councillor Jones: “Our staff have worked extremely hard to address the massive legacy of service neglect inherited by this authority but whilst improvements have been made, there is some way to go.

“We believe that this proposal, which will also create opportunities for our own staff, guarantees us the best results in the shortest time in helping to create the quality service that our tenants deserve.”