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Waverley housing privatisation propaganda

Keith Parkins | 26.10.2004 14:28 | Analysis | Repression | Social Struggles

Waverley council is pushing a pro-privatisation agenda for its council housing stock under the guise of advising the tenants of the options. Waverley chief executive claims their pro-privatisation propaganda is 'fair and balanced' because it 'has been scrutinised by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minster'!

'All of this literature has been scrutinised by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minster and also by the housing portfolio holder at Waverley to ensure that it is fair and balanced.' -- Christine Pointer, chief executive, Waverley Borough Council

'No change is no longer an option for affordable housing in Waverley.' -- Victor Scrivens, Waverley housing portfolio holder

'Arms-length management organisations could take over ownership of council homes by 2006 under radical new proposals drawn up by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.' -- Inside Housing

'We believe that the target of achieving Decent Homes in the social housing sector is being used as a Trojan Horse by the Government in a dogmatic quest to minimise the proportion of housing stock managed by Local Authorities. The government must put its money where its mouth is and leave it up to tenants to decide who should own and manage their homes.' -- ODPM Select Committee

'It’s no longer good enough for ministers to say there are only three options available. PFI, ALMOs and stock transfer are all, in our opinion, useful ways forward but they should not be the only solutions for investment in housing stock.' -- Sir Jeremy Beecham, then-chair Local Government Association

'Tenants need to be presented with equal information about the pros and cons of the various options for which they are being consulted. That is absolutely the principle that we as government and we as ministers conform to.' -- Keith Hill, Housing Minister

Waverley is situated south west of London, a sprawling semi-rural local authority comprising Farnham, Godalming, Haslemere and Cranleigh.

A few years ago, Waverley tenants were asked did they wish to see their homes privatised. They said no. Now they are being asked again. They said no the last time, they wish to say no this time, and so to ensure a vote for privatisation, the ballot has been rigged, with the option to remain with the council not even on the ballot paper.

How fair and balanced is the literature the council is pushing out to its tenants?

In a letter to the Farnham Herald, Christine Pointer, in an attack on community activist Peter Sandy, assured her tenants that the literature that Waverley had provided on housing privatisation had been scrutinised by the ODPM and the Waverley housing portfolio holder Victor Scrivens and it was fair and balanced. So that's alright then?

Well er not quite. Both Prescott's department and Victor Scrivens have been pushing privatisation of council housing. Or are we being assured that it is okay as pro-privatisation propaganda, as that is what it is. So much for being 'fair and balanced'.

Victor Scrivens also chairs the special advisory group advising the council on privatisation. The composition of the group is councillors, housing department, and tame tenants. The latter are solely reliant on the other members of the group for information.

Setting aside the obvious built in bias, just how 'fair and balanced' is the glossy propaganda being pumped out by Waverley? From a cursory glance, the answer is, not at all.

Stock Retention

The Council claims it could borrow between £15m to £20m, but that this would still leave a shortfall in money required.

The top end of borrowing is thought to be too risky, as can the Council afford to pay it back?

This begs even more questions. If too risky, then why is it not so for an ALMO or RSL?

It is cheaper for a council to borrow money than the private sector. Additional costs which are borne by the tenants.

Waverley claim they are committed to tenant participation, and allow two tenants to attend the appropriate scrutiny committee (they lack a vote).

Whether the tenants are actual participants is not clear. Anyone can attend committee meetings.

Members of the public are not allowed to attend board meetings of RSLs!

It is emphasised only councillors are allowed to take the decisions.

This overlooks the obvious fact that councillors, at least in theory, should be acting on behalf of their constituents, and also in theory, can be removed by their constituents if they fail to act.

Waverley claim the money is not there. This raises the question why could Guildford find the money but not Waverley, which implies incompetence in the housing department.

It may be true, Waverley lacks the money, but the money is there, it is just that it is being dished out to the wrong sectors.


An ALMO, is a separate structure within the council. Councillors, apart from those who sit on the board, have no say in the running of the ALMO.

That is the whole point of an ALMO it is separate from the council.

Applications can be made for grant aid. There is no guarantee of a successful application. A third of applications for grant aid are unsuccessful.

To be in the running for any grant aid, Waverley would have to have a superior performance than at present.

On its current 1-star rating, Waverley would not be eligible for grant aid.

There is no evidence to support that separating supply of services from policy achieves any benefits, cost saving or efficiencies.

Work by Heriott-Watt University shows the opposite, that there is a deterioration in services. This is also the view of privatised tenants. Pavilion tenants have found they are far worse off since their housing was privatised a decade ago. Shelter has also commented on the worsening of service by separating policy from management.

Executives of existing ALMOs are pushing, with the full backing of John Prescott, for privatisation by 2006.

An ALMO parcels up the council housing ready for sell-off.

In a report to Haringey Council, PriceWaterhouseCoopers said an ALMO 'is compatible with achieving full stock transfer in the longer term.'

Wendy Jarvis, ODPM head of local authority housing finance has said of ALMOs that they

'don't own their stock at the moment. We have to look at their structure again ... The housing association model is an obvious one to look at and we are looking at it ... Our view has to be that it stays within the
Whitehall family until we have formulated our own views and particularly that the Treasury is comfortable. Then we will go out to the relevant private sector partners.'

What happens if the ALMO runs out of money? Quite likely if the ALMO shows the same degree of competence as Waverley housing department. It cannot be bailed out by the council as it is now ring-fenced. The only option, is to sell off property, either piecemeal, as whole estates, or individual properties as they become vacant.

Setting up an ALMO, is not like picking up an off-the-shelf limited company for a costume hire shop. There are extensive costs involved.

Ashfield ALMO cost £2 million to set up, Leeds spent £1 million on management costs alone. Then there are the corporate logos etc etc.

If you don't get the money on offer, tenants are left with all the set-up costs (the housing is now ring-fenced), loss of accountability and transparency, risk of future privatisation, all for nothing.


PFIs are so discredited not even worthy of discussion.

They release up-front money, that taxpayers spend the next 30 years, paying back many times over.

Housing Associations

As with an ALMO, there is no evidence that separation of management and policy delivers any benefits.

The only limit on what the RSL may borrow is that set by the banks. It is the tenants' homes that are being mortgaged and put at risk.

This puts the banks firmly in charge.

It costs more for an RSL to borrow money than the council.

Running costs at RSLs are higher than public ownership.

Tenants and councillors sit on the board. They may have a seat at the table, but they are outsiders, denied access to 'sensitive' information. Legally they are obliged to act for the RSL, not the tenants or the local community.

It is not usual for the tenants to select their representatives. Peerless Housing Association has recently welcomed three tenants onto the board. They were selected by the chief executive and chairman.

At Testway Housing, the chief executive is trying to force both councillors and tenants off the board.

If tenants try to raise issues on behalf of tenants they will find themselves kicked off the board, as happened at People to People.

What were the three Rushmoor councillors doing who sit on the board of Pavilion to let it become one of the worst housing associations in the country?

There is no accountability, no transparency.

Tenants rights are affected. Tenants go from a 'secure' tenancy to an 'assured' tenancy. Tenancies are less secure, eviction rates go up.

Eviction rates are 36% higher for RSLs.

The banks will not lend money unless it is easy to evict tenants and they are able to seize property that has been mortgaged.

Rents charged by housing associations have gone up compared with that charged by councils. The cap on rent rises is only in place for the first few years. And many RSLs do not even keep to the guarantee on capping the rents.

RSL rents are 17% higher than council tenants.

Guarantees on rents may not apply to service charges.

Guarantees on rents do not apply to new tenants.

Existing tenants may retain the 'right to buy'. New tenants do not have the 'right to buy'.

If the RSL fails to deliver on the promises made at the time of privatisation, there are no guarantees, no comebacks.

It is claimed there is monitoring by the board to stop problems arising.

Try telling that to Pavilion tenants.

The terms and conditions of staff are not protected. It is one big gravy train for senior staff and executives (and their assorted hangers on, consultants, lawyers, bankers etc) and deteriorating conditions for low grade staff. RSLs are non-unionised, staff are laid off to cut costs and cut corners.

Local authority terms and conditions often are not transferred. Many RSLs are non-union or anti-union.

One of the first things that Pavilion did was to fire the in-house service team.

Stock transfer may be a gravy train for the senior staff in the housing department who are pushing it, but not for anyone else.

The landlord could at any time change.

The first thing that Pavilion tenants knew of a proposed merger with Eastleigh-based Atlantic, was when they read about it in the local press. The same was true of Atlantic tenants down in Eastleigh.

Neither group of tenants want this merger, but they are powerless. There is no requirement to consult them.

The Housing Corporation, the industry regulator, actively encourages mergers and takeovers.

Pavilion changed to a charity. There was no consultation with the tenants. They had no say.

Pavilion is throwing a group of tenants out of their homes because they wish to make a fast buck on flogging the land. The tenants have no say. Or as a nasty piece of shit at Pavilion said: 'we do not allow our tenants to have a veto'. This was called 'consultation'

A local council, by definition, takes a wider interest in the local community. A RSL does not and is under no obligation to do so.

Christine Pointer claims her tenants are being given choice. They are being given a choice of two variants of privatisation. The real choice, remain with the council, will not even be on the ballot paper. And, if Christine Pointer, has her way, there may not even be a choice of different flavours of privatisation. Waverley may decide to push its tenants into an ALMO, all neatly parcelled up for full privatisation, without any further consultation, let alone holding a ballot.

An example of 'fair and balanced' in Waverley, was when David January, Waverley head of housing, tried to have me evicted from a briefing of tenants.

This is democracy North Korean style.

A little honesty from Scrivens, Pointer, January et al, who are pushing privatisation of the Waverley housing stock is long overdue. They are not only selling off their housing stock, they are selling out their tenants, and doing so on a pack of lies

In a straw poll of their tenants, Waverley recorded

- 40% in favour of transfer to a housing association
- 29% in favour of an ALMO
- 28% in favour of remaining with the council

What would these figures have been if the tenants had been told the truth?

Tenants across the country are sick to the back teeth of being bullied, bludgeoned and blackmailed into privatisation.

It is time Waverley tenants told Scrivens, Pointer and January et al, where to get off.

There will be one more brainwashing session for Waverly tenants by the housing department:

- 7pm 27 October 2004 at Baptist Hall, Godalming

How much is the Waverley pro-privatisation costing local taxpayers? Money down the drain, money that should be ploughed into local housing. Waverley residents should consider referring the matter to the District Auditor for investigation and consider having councillors surcharged to recover the costs.

The District Auditor has already found two councils guilty for unlawful use of public money for their attempts to persuade their tenants of the benefits of privatisation.

There may already be grounds for a judicial review into the manner in which Waverley have carried out this so-called consultation exercise. We know the result we wish to achieve, it is simply a matter of persuading our gullible tenants.

Waverley housing portfolio holder Victor Scrivens tried behind the scenes to silence Peter Sandy, a critic of what Waverley are doing. Victor Scrivens may now find himself, and not for the first time, under investigation by the Standards Board for England.

David January could not even be trusted on simple show of hands at a tenants' briefing. What trust can there be in any ballot if he is in charge?

Guildford, instead of pressuring their tenants into privatisation, see their vote of eight to ten to remain with the council, as a great vote of confidence in the council. But then Guildford, unlike Waverley, has a well-managed housing portfolio.

Scrivens, Pointer, January et al, are not acting in the best interests of their tenants, are not telling them the truth on privatisation of their homes. Tenants should be calling for their resignation.

There will be a tenants meeting with consultants on 4 November 2004 at Godalming Baptist Church in Godalming at 7pm (opposite end of Godalming town centre to the railway station). Contact Dome Consultants for details.

A meeting of Pavilion tenants and interested parties has been called to discuss repairs, merger with Atlantic and anti-social behaviour. Representatives from Pavilion, and the police, will be there to answer questions. 6-30pm Wednesday 3 November 2004, Connaught School, Aldershot (off Tongham Road).

Defend Council Housing are holding a National Conference 10-30am to 4.30pm Friday 29 October 2004 at the TUC, Congress House, London.


Peter Sandy (tenant activist Aldershot) 01252 329919
Defend Council Housing 0207 987 9989
Waverley Housing Dept 0800 0325253
Dome Consultants 0800 919994



Kai Andersen, Council Tenants - Heads we lose, Tail we don't win, Indymedia UK, 31 January 2004

Liz Cairncross, Changing Boards, Emerging Tensions, Oxford Brookes University, Spring 2004 {presented to the Housing Studies Association Conference, Spring 2004}

The Case for the 'Fourth Option', the House of Commons Council Housing group, June 2004

Steve Flux, Housing groups in merger talks, The Southern Daily Echo, 11 October 2004

Roy Hattersley, Give council tenants a real choice, The Guardian, 5 July 2004

Housing: Improving services through resident involvement, Audit Commission, June 2004

John Martin, Council housing transfer plans 'betray' tenants, The Guardian, 3 September 2004

George Monbiot, Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain, Macmillan, 2000

Keith Parkins, Social landlords are deviating from their intended purpose, Indymedia UK, 20 January 2004

Keith Parkins, Social housing landlords the new corporations, Corporate Watch newsletter No 17, January-February 2004

Keith Parkins, Guildford say NO to council house transfer, Indymedia UK, 13 February 2004

Keith Parkins, Privatisation of council houses in Waverley, Indymedia UK, 17 February 2004

Keith Parkins, Registered social landlords – the new corporations, Indymedia UK, 18 February 2004

Keith Parkins, Social housing under attack, Indymedia UK, 5 August 2004

Keith Parkins, Social housing crisis, Indymedia UK, 12 August 2004

Keith Parkins, Privatisation of council housing, Indymedia UK, 16 August 2004

Keith Parkins, The Scandal of Firgrove Court, Indymedia UK, 31 August 2004

Keith Parkins, Pavilion v Atlantic, Indymedia UK, 6 September 2004

Keith Parkins, Pavilion and Atlantic Housing Groups to Merge?, Indymedia UK, 13 September 2004

Keith Parkins, Waverley to force through housing sell off, Indymedia UK, 19 October 2004

Keith Parkins, Waverley propaganda on housing privatisation, Indymedia UK, 22 October 2004

Keith Parkins, Pavilion Housing Association lurches from bad to worse, Indymedia UK, 22 October 2004

Keith Parkins, A sell-out, not a sell-off, letters, Farnham Herald, 22 October 2004

Christine Pointer, Clear choices for tenants, letters, Farnham Herald, 22 October 2004

Rushmoor councillor's advice to Waverley tenants, Farnham Herald, 15 October 2004

Janet Sillett, A level playing field, The Guardian, 28 September 2004

David Singleton, Authority to embark on pioneering ALMO transfer, Inside Housing, 4 December 2003

David Singleton, ALMO ownership by 2006, Inside Housing, 3 September 2004

Tenants vote no to transfer of local authority homes, Farnham Herald, 22 October 2004

Tenants' meeting reveals firm divide on Waverley housing transfer issue, Farnham Herald, 22 October 2004

Alan Walter, Let us decide, The Guardian, 29 June 2004

Waverley councillors cut the options for future of council homes, Farnham Herald, 1 October 2004

Matt Weaver, MPs attack 'dogmatic' housing policy, The Guardian, 7 May 2004

Matt Weaver, Prescott defeated on council housing vote, The Guardian, 27 September 2004

Matt Weaver, Landlord hit by boardroom dispute, The Guardian, 15 October 2004

Keith Parkins

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