Swindon council tenants have rejected transfer of their 10,500 homes to a Housing Association. There were 6,073 No votes (72.3%) and 2,329 Yes votes (27.7%).
The ballot result comes as the government is promoting a new wave of transfers of council homes.
Eileen Short chair of Defend Council Housing says:
'This government promises debt write-off to subsidise privatisation of council housing, while loading extra debt onto the backs of council tenants'.
'This debt should be written-down where tenants choose to stay with the council. Housing debt has been paid many times over through rents and receipts taken by Government. Rents should be used to maintain, improve and build new council housing - not to pay Government debt'
Swindon Council spent over £600,000 on the consultation, while the grass-roots tenants and trade union Vote No campaign spent less than £6,000.
Martin Wicks of the Swindon Tenants Campaign Group says:
'We are over the moon at this result. We now need to hold the Council to account.
'The Council claim they were only presenting facts but tenants know a hard sell when they see one. Staff promoting a Yes vote cold called and phoned; tenants all over the town complaining about staff behaviour towards them.
'A tenant was told you can vote No, but it will still go through. Another tenant reported a senior council officer told them we'll be better off with a Housing Association (though officers were supposed to be neutral).
'We will be holding the Council to account on these issues. We need to build on this victory, developing an independent tenant organisation to fight for funding and for a new Council house building programme to address the housing crisis, both locally and nationally'.
1. Stock transfer ballots were introduced in 1988. Housing transfer is the only form of privatisation subject to ballot voting, by secure tenants of local authorities.
2. Government in their Housing Strategy for England (November 2011) says: 'We will bring forward proposals for a programme of transfers, clarifying the level of financial support (through writing off housing debt) and the criteria to be applied in prioritising such support.' (Chapter 3, paragraph 55).
3. The Government is increasing the burden on council tenants of housing debt, much of which was incurred to build homes long since privatised or sold through Right to Buy. Council housing debt in England was estimated in 2009 at £18billion, but at least £29.6billion will be devolved to councils in April 2012 - see Inside Housing article.
4. There are 1.7 million council tenant households in England; and 1.8 million households on local authority housing waiting lists in England.
Contact Martin Wicks, Swindon Tenants Campaign Group 07786 394 593
Photos of Martin Wicks and Swindon No Vote campaigners available on request.