Thousands called in push ahead of vote

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THOUSANDS of tenants were called by Sheffield Council staff urging them to vote in a ballot to return housing to its control - as The Star can reveal almost £750,000 is paid to a small number of top managers at existing management company Sheffield Homes.

The council has revealed its call centre ‘successfully contacted’ almost 5,000 of 42,000 tenants on estates currently managed by Sheffield Homes ‘to encourage people to vote’.

Sheffield Council said the total number of households called before the ballot was 6,890 - with 4,892 answering - and the exercise was carried out by call centre staff as ‘part of their regular work’.

Coun Harry Harpham, cabinet member for housing, said: “We called people to make sure they had their ballot papers and to encourage them to vote. I think that’s a good thing.”

However, some residents have reported being called three or four times.

Opposition Lib Dem housing spokeswoman, Coun Penny Baker said: “When making canvassing calls for political purposes, the normal ratio is eight calls made for each successful one.

“Council staff must have spent a lot of time and made many thousands more calls in total.”

The ballot had a massive 55 per cent turnout, on a par with a general election, and 88 per cent of people voted to return management of housing to the council.

Meanwhile, the cost of senior management at Sheffield Homes - which the council wants to wind up next April, a year before its contract comes to an end - has also been revealed.

A small number of bosses are paid a total of almost £750,000 each year including £128,000 earned by chief executive Peter Morton, who is taking early retirement. There are six-and-a-half management posts on £54,250 to £58,225 and three directors on £90,000, as well as Mr Morton.

Coun Harpham said savings will be made from senior management costs when housing is brought back under council control.

But he said the proposed £1.2 million annual savings from Sheffield Homes’ £38m yearly budget have not yet been decided.