Tenants’ views ‘most important’ in deciding future of council housing

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Sheffield housing supremo Coun Harry Harpham has pledged to ‘involve as many tenants as possible’ in a consultation about how council estates should be managed in the future.

Now the ballot has been completed, the next step involves Sheffield Council formally rubber-stamping the result at a meeting of its cabinet in March.

Ruling councillors could have made a decision without consulting tenants, as happened when Rotherham Council took the service back in-house from arms-length organisation 2010 Rotherham last year.

But Coun Harpham, cabinet member for housing, said: “We have always said the most important voice to us is what the tenants say to us.”

“I have my own ideas, but the most important views on future management of estates will come from tenants.

“Over the coming months, we want them to help us develop the kind of service they want.”

Day-to-day services on the estates will be unchanged by the ballot result and Sheffield Homes itself has a contract to continue its role until the end of March 2014 - so tenants will notice no immediate difference.

By the time Sheffield Homes is wound up, Decent Homes modernisation work on all properties will finally have been completed - four years late - but significant challenges remain.

Coun Harpham said: “There is a backlog of maintenance including electrical work and boilers which are becoming obsolete and need replacing.

“The way housing is funded is being changed, with Sheffield able to keep all its rents and the £700 million cost of the Decent Homes programme has been written off by the Government.

“However, there is a debt of £200 million from the old funding arrangements, which will have to be covered, and the challenge of finding funding for future modernisation.”

Another housing-related issue on the horizon is the future of Sheffield Council’s housing ‘construction and building services’ contract with private firm Kier, also due up for renewal in 2014.

Coun Harpham said: “We are considering all options, including re-tendering or taking it back in-house.”