Ashfield Homes is saved but costs must be slashed

THE FUTURE of Ashfield Homes — the organisation responsible for managing and maintaining council houses in Hucknall — has been secured.

Members of Ashfield District Council have rubber-stamped a proposal which will see the company continue to look after the properties until at least 2016.

Earlier this year, councillors stepped back from a proposal to scrap the management agreement with Ashfield Homes, which is an arm’s length management organisation (ALMO).

As part of the deal, Ashfield Homes has been told it will have to make savings of at least £2.1m over the next five years, as well as restructure its senior management team and remove the duplicated roles it shares with the council.

Coun John Wilmott (Lab), of Hucknall, who is deputy leader of the council, told a meeting of the council that the decision would enable the two organisations to work together and provide the “best service for our tenants”.

He said: “In times of recession it is not going to be easy. But if we work in partnership, I can see a new horizon where the services can only get better with the Ashfield Homes board and Ashfield District Council rising to do this.”

Coun Jason Zadrozny (Lib Dem) said: “I broadly welcome the report and I am pleased to see the council is going to retain Ashfield Homes.”

But he raised concerns about the savings Ashfield Homes must make and said that any changes should be made ‘properly, slowly and carefully’.

“Whenever you try to do more for less, there is pressure on services,” he added.

The news has also been welcomed by campaigner and former Ashfield Homes chairman Pat Simms, who praised the hardworking staff of Ashfield Homes.

She said: “I believe that the ALMO was the best thing that Ashfield Council ever did. It was a flagship and something to be proud of.

“Now people have decent heating systems, decent kitchens and decent bathrooms.

“I think it is important that Ashfield Homes continues to deliver the standard of service that they have done.”

Of the 55,000 properties in Ashfield, the council owns more than 7,000. Ashfield Homes, which employs 200 people, was created in 2002 to take over the landlord role of the council’s Housing Service.

As part of its formation, it received grants from the government of tens of millions of pounds.