Sheffield Council wins controversial ballot to bring running of 42,000 homes back under its control
AN OVERWHELMING majority of tenants have voted to return control of their homes to Sheffield Council.
A total of 26,465 votes was cast in the ballot on the future management of estates - and 88.2 per cent were in favour of a return to council management.
Just 11.8 per cent voted to continue the current arrangement, where arms-length management organisation Sheffield Homes is paid an annual fee to run properties.
Turnout among the 42,000 households was 55 per cent - as high as a general election, and almost double the level seen at local elections in some wards.
Sheffield Council cabinet member for housing Coun Harry Harpham said: “Tenants have voted with an extremely strong voice.
“The result is a show of confidence in the city council and particularly the Labour administration.
“The detailed business will now start on planning how we manage properties in the future.”
The ballot followed a £400,000 consultation exercise which included two letters sent to every household and public meetings held around the city.
Coun Harpham promised a wide consultation process will now begin to find out tenants’ views about how management should work in the future.
The first step has involved further letters being sent to every household immediately asking for their ideas.
Sheffield Homes will continue to manage properties until the end of March 2014, when new arrangements will begin.
The organisation has won praise in recent years, receiving a top rating from the audit commission for the last three years plus several independent awards for performance.
But the council believes returning management in-house will save £1.2 million in running costs, which can be spent on improving estates.
The majority of Sheffield Homes’ 1,000 staff - many of whom worked for the council before the firm was set up in 2004 - will be returned to the local authority.
But Coun Harpham said he could not rule out some job losses.
Redundancies are most likely in top-level management and ‘back office’ roles, where savings are to be made.
Tenants’ representatives today welcomed the ballot result.
June Smith, who chairs the Flower Estate Community Association in Wincobank, said: “We feel safer with the council managing our homes.
“Under Sheffield Homes, councillors had less influence and less work seemed to be done maintaining our area.
“I think it will be more democratic to have housing back under the council’s control.”
Gordon Garratty, chairman of Fraser Tenants’ and Residents’ Association in Woodseats, added: “I was highly satisfied with the council before Sheffield Homes came about.
“I think it’s good that councillors will have full control over housing again.”
But Linda Daniels, of Brushes Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, Firth Park, said: “Tenants were not given enough information before the vote on which to make their decision.
“People were not told about Sheffield Homes’ good record when it is the best-rated housing management company in the country.
“Some people didn’t even realise they were not being managed by the council at present.
“I think tenants should also have been asked to vote on a full range of options, including transfer to a housing association.
“The council now needs to get everyone’s view and hold an open and honest process to come up with future management arrangements.”
Opposition Lib Dem housing spokeswoman Coun Alison Brelsford said: “If the tenants of Sheffield have spoken through a fair and open ballot, then the council should be bound by the decision and go ahead with the change, ensuring a smooth transition.
“Tenants were promised that at least £1.2m a year would be saved through reductions in management costs if they came back within the council. Liberal Democrats will be watching to ensure that promise is honoured.”