Sunday, January 14, 2007


Selling off council houses

It was a marathon City Council meeting on Wednesday night, not finishing until 11.30 pm. One of the reasons was the long debate on a new proposal from Winchester's Tory administration. In a nutshell they wanted to give the Portfolio Holder for Housing the right to sell off up to 10 vacant council houses every year if it would cost more than £8000 to bring such a house up to lettable standard.

We had identified a number of problems with this proposal.

First, the brunt of such disposals was likely (based on previous experience) to fall on rural housing. Winchester has a desperate shortage of rural housing to let and we, as a council group, were unhappy that the number could be further reduced this way.

Second, the Cabinet was basing part of its budget proposals on the income from these sales. We felt that this would force them to sell enough houses to meet the expenditure target. Either that or the cabinet would be acting irresponsibly by basing part of their spending on income that was wholly unpredictable.

Third, we did not believe the claims that there was no one who wanted to rent these houses. My colleague Simon Cook (councillor for Alresford) produced a letter sent to one of his constituents acknowledging her interest in renting a house in Cheriton. The council subsequently withdrew their offer of this house and added it to the list for disposal. She still wants to rent it.

Eventually the council approved the sell off of these houses. Interestingly the solid Tory vote in favour was boosted by the support of all three Labour councillors. I think no further comment is necessary.
It seems that this sort of situation is universal, with your Tory administration being about as loose with the truth as certain American presidents I could name.

What is planned for the sold properties? Is Winchester as plagued with development of large, ill made houses as we are here in the Seattle area?

Is it true that all new building must be assessed for archaeological potential first?

Nan Hawthorne
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