Housing ballot worries allayed

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ELECTION bosses have scotched fears of fraud after several tenants voting on the future of Sheffield’s council housing stock received duplicate ballot papers.

All 42,700 council house tenants were given the opportunity to vote over who should manage the city’s housing stock in future - arms’ length management company Sheffield Homes, as currently, or Sheffield Council.

The ballot on the future of the city’s housing portfolio closed on Friday and a final decision is expected to be made by the council’s cabinet in March.

But some tenants raised concerns about the voting process after receiving two ballot papers.

Today Simon Hearne, director of the Electoral Reform Service which ran the vote on behalf of Sheffield Council, said: “Every property that hadn’t voted by a particular date was sent a letter containing a duplicate ballot paper.

“All the ballot papers are barcoded so, if someone was to vote twice, we would detect that and remove the duplicate votes.

“Those who hadn’t voted by a certain date were sent duplicate ballot papers but it was an intended part of the process, rather than a mistake.”

Sheffield Council claims it could save £1.2 million a year if management of housing stock is brought back ‘in house’.

But Sheffield Homes, which was recently voted best arm’s length management company in the country, wants to continue to manage the properties on behalf of the council.

A series of public meetings and drop-in sessions was held as part of the consultation process.

Sheffield Homes was created in 2004 by the council when local authorities across the country were requested to bring homes up to a set standard.

Sheffield Homes implemented the Decent Homes project to upgrade all the city’s council properties.

The council is reviewing who manages the city’s council homes because the Sheffield Homes contract expires in March 2014.

Harry Harpham, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for housing, regeneration and planning, said: “Whatever options are chosen, there is still the same amount of money to run the service.”

He added: “It’s still the same housing service which will be delivered.”