Council agrees in principle to axe Ashfield Homes - residents plan to take on housing stock themselves if decision is upheld

Pat Sims of Ashfield Federation of Tenants and Residents .
Pat Sims of Ashfield Federation of Tenants and Residents .

Ashfield District Council has moved a step closer to bringing the districts housing stock back under its control and axing Ashfield Homes.

A proposal to bring the management of its council housing stock back in-house was approved in principle at the latest meeting of the council’s cabinet.

However, tenants organisations who say they are “highly satisfied” with the not-for-profit housing company Ashfield Homes have opposed the move – and could even apply to take on the council’s housing stock themselves in a multi-million pound counter bid.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Keir Morrison, cabinet member for housing and asset management, said: ”The current situation can be improved by removing organisational barriers that may affect service delivery and will offer the greatest opportunity to improve the performance of the housing service, improve value for money, and deliver better financial viability.”

He said the council would have more control over the future of council housing – including reinvestment in housing.

The council says tenants and leaseholders would not see a change to frontline services.

However, some senior and back office roles would be merged, saving £500,000.

Coun Morrison, Labour member for Hucknall South, said it was not a final decision and there will be more consultation between tenants, residents and staff before a final recommendation to a full council meeting on Thursday, March 10.

He said the council is asking members of the Ashfield Homes board to help with the scrutiny of the council’s in-house services.

Coun Morrison said: “We are aware members of Ashfield Homes board are concerned about our in-principle decision and we will meet with them next week to continue our discussions about the remainder of this process.”

Ashfield Homes was set up in 2002 as an arms-length management organisation, managing the council’s stock of 6,800 council homes.

The council retained ownership of the properties.

However, Minister Myrrha Hibbert, Ashfield Homes board chairman, said the board could not support the decision.

Residents groups could apply to take control of the council’s housing stock themselves if Ashfield Homes is axed.

Pat Simms, a tenant representative for Ashfield Federation of Tenants and Residents, said: “During the consultation, tenants made it clear we are highly satisfied with Ashfield Homes.

“Housing repairs have been excellent since it took over in 2002 and we feel Ashfield District Council will not be able to match the standard.”

Mrs Simms, who was on the board of Ashfield Homes for eight years, said the federation was looking for funding for a legal consultant, with a view of taking out a tenant-led stock option in future.

She said: “Unless councillors vote to keep Ashfield Homes, they will leave us with no option but to lead a tenant-led stock transfer bid.

“We have contacted the Homes and Communities Agency with the aim to start this in the New Year.”