Community Housing Trust proposals halted ‘indefinitely’
Joint announcement from Kingston Council, the Community Housing Trust Shadow Board and Kingston Federation of Residents
Plans to transfer Kingston Council’s housing services to a resident-led community housing trust (CHT) should be put on hold in the light of “unexpected and substantial” cuts to council housing budgets being imposed by the Government.
This recommendation, made with “extreme reluctance” by members of the CHT Shadow Board last night (15 October), came after Chairman David West warned the impact of Government cuts would effectively make it impossible for a future Trust to deliver one of its key promises – that of delivering better housing services to Kingston’s 6,500 council tenants and leaseholders.
Proposing that all work on developing a new CHT model be halted, he said: “Given that the Government’s unexpected and substantial rent reduction requirements will see nearly £10 million cut from the Council’s housing revenue account over the next four years, it would be morally wrong for us to continue to promise housing improvements from next year, when the reality is likely to see cutbacks having to be made to various services, including the Trust.
“Since this was a key factor behind the CHT initiative, now is no longer the right time to be setting up a Trust. We’ve been overtaken by events outside our control. It’s as simple as that.”
David West added: “The second key objective of a CHT was to give tenants and leaseholders direct control over shaping the future delivery and priorities of housing services – something they had demanded for many years. But, six months down the road towards creating a resident-led CHT, it seems resident support for this project is only modest, when we had anticipated it would be almost unanimous. If we can’t meet either of our aims, it would be folly to continue.”
The Council’s Head of Housing Darren Welsh had previously warned CHT Shadow Board members that successive rent cuts every year for at least the next four years would present challenges unprecedented in his 28 years of housing management. “It will leave whoever is responsible for managing the housing stock next year with a range of unpalatable choices about exactly where the savings need to be made. Everything from spending on repairs to completing the Council’s ‘Better Homes’ improvement programme will have to be reviewed,” he said.
Councillor Cathy Roberts, Lead Member for Housing said: “Everyone who has been involved with the CHT project will be deeply disappointed by this outcome, but the Shadow Board’s position is entirely understandable. Nobody expected a CHT to have to start life by trying to create major service improvements in a climate of significant spending cuts. If we are to provide the good housing services people need in the future, we will still need to make changes to the way those services are provided. We will be releasing more information on alternative options to the CHT model in the coming months.”
Federation Chair Paul Johnston commented: “Having spent nearly 18 months working to develop this initiative, I am saddened to see the loss of what would have been a milestone, marking far greater resident inclusion in the management of their own housing affairs. I would like to think that one day in the not too distant future, we might be able to revisit the proposals.”
The CHT Shadow Board’s recommendation will now go to next month’s Adults & Children’s Committee for decision.