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SALFORD COUNCIL AND GOVERNMENT WRECK SOCIAL HOUSING
 

Star Date: 12th June 2012

A Salford Star Exclusive

SALFORD COUNCIL HOUSING MESS AS RENTS SET TO INCREASE £20 A WEEK, DECENT HOMES FUNDING IN TATTERS AND SALIX HOMES SET FOR SELL OFF

Salford's social housing is set for its biggest ever crisis with rents to increase by an average of £20 a week by 2015, funding to bring homes up to a decent standard running dry and the Pendleton PFI draining the Council of resources. Salford Council's answer? An option to `transfer' or hive off its entire Salix Homes housing stock.

It's a monumental mess created by both Salford City Council and ConDem Coalition Government…

Full housing horror story here…


Creating A New Pendleton City West
click image to enlarge

18 months ago Salford Council put out a press release announcing that it had secured £51.8million from the Government to improve homes in the city, which was hailed by the then Leader of Salford Council, John Merry, as "excellent news for residents".

Peter Styche, Chair of Salix Homes, went even further on the release stating that "we will be able to bring everybody's home up to a decent standard".

Now it's all gone horribly, terribly wrong with a new Salford Council report by Chief Executive Barbara Spicer claiming "it is highly unlikely that the Salix Homes managed stock will ever achieve and/or maintain the decent homes standard."

It's a long story of ConDem Government cutbacks, Salford Council incompetence (as usual), City West greed and the Pendleton PFI sucking up public funding for private gain.

All these factors have come together with the result being an average increase in Salix Homes rents of £20 per week by 2015, Salford people living for longer in unfit houses, and the likely hiving off of Salford Council's entire Salix Homes housing stock.

We'll try and explain it all. Let's begin in 2007 with the transfer of Salford Council's housing in West Salford to City West. Housing activists warned that it would lead to rent increases…

Indeed, Salford Star contributor, Neil Hill, not only wrote an article about the potential increases but tried to take the then Government Minister Hazel Blears to court to try and stop the process. Neil lost on a technicality, was presented with a £3000 bill within hours of the case closing, and then tragically killed himself.

Before his death, Neil sent an e-mail to the Treasury which was acting on behalf of Hazel Blears… "I will haunt you for the rest of your miserable stinking rotten life" he wrote (see here for further details).

Neil's arguments against the City West sell off were sound. Two years later, in March 2009, City West increased its rents by 8%. And Salford Council Leader, John Merry, stated at the time… "we are extremely disappointed that the board has chosen to ignore the council's request to reduce the rent increase for its tenants".

All this has major relevance for what's happening now, as the Government has ruled that all council housing should be self financing, and that, by 2015, council rents should match those set by housing associations (and their equivalent) in what is known as `rent convergence'.

For Salix tenants this will mean, according to the latest Salford Council report, "an increase on current average weekly rents of almost £20 over the next four years".

Also in the background over the last decade has been the totally inept attempts at the Pendleton PFI, which looks like it's finally going to come to fruition in September this year. It involves kicking people out of their houses, loads of demolitions, loads of expensive new build properties, and handing whatever Council housing is left in the area over to a new company (which hasn't been announced yet) to manage.

PFI schemes are notorious for creaming off huge profits for private companies paid for out of the public purse. Salford Council is committed to the Pendleton PFI, which will draw over £100million from central government but also involve Salford Council paying millions of pounds towards the scheme.

Nowhere has Salford Council disclosed exactly how much it will have to pay. But the Council report states, with almost Dalek intonation, that getting out of the PFI isn't an option… "The Pendleton PFI scheme must proceed".

While Pendleton people were voting on options for the area a few years ago, nowhere can we find anything stating that their rents would be going up by £20 a week.

To recap…The Pendleton PFI and City West Housing rents are to be higher than Salix Homes, therefore by 2015 the Salix rents have to go up to `converge'.

Meanwhile, against this background, Salford Council has a major decent homes problem because the ConDem Government has axed such support funding from central government. Instead, councils will be expected to pay for decent homes out of any rents and service charges it collects from its housing stock, which it is now allowed to keep. This sounds ok in theory except for two things...

Firstly, Salford Council will have got rid of loads of its housing stock to City West and the PFI company so it won't pick up enough revenue. And, secondly, the Government has capped the amount of money the Council can borrow for making homes decent to live in, and there's going to be a huge shortfall.

The cap for Salford Council is £12.567million, and the Council report states "Unfortunately this is not enough"…the Council would need another £93million over the next 30 years. Thus "it is highly unlikely that the Salix Homes managed stock will ever achieve and/or maintain the decent homes standard."

Meanwhile, social rent homes managed or owned by the PFI company and City West can borrow as much as they want for investment, so even though tenants will all be paying the same rent (`convergence') some will be living in decent properties and some won't…

…Or, as the Council report states, "The tenants of Salix Homes managed properties will face a triple whammy of: increasing rents, reducing services and poorer standard of investment when it eventually arrives".

Even worse is that, because Salford Council has to pay towards the Pendleton PFI houses, "this would be seen by a number of tenants in the Salix Homes managed properties as their rents being used to subsidise a much better investment standard in Pendleton at the expense of investment in their own homes".

And this is the mess that Salford Council housing currently finds itself in. But what to do? Like all Salford Council decisions recently, the answer is to wimp out…

"What is not an option" states its report "is a challenge to self financing itself". Rather than fighting, the Council will consider its other options, one of which will be to transfer the rest of its Salix stock to a company that can borrow money to make its homes decent… the `stock transfer option'. And another option is to transfer the houses to a `tenants co-operative', which would fit in with Mr Ian Stewart Mayor's ideas.

In the meantime, £50,000 will be thrown at an `options appraisal' project. And, at the end of the process, tenants will asked to vote on the best option - like they did with the City West takeover. City West subsequently wacked up rents, which has now wacked up everyone's rent in social housing, to the tune of £20 a week over the next four years.

Salford Council is now holding up its hands saying `It's not our fault'… or, as Barbara Spicer puts it "This is not through mismanagement of resources, but simply a change in the level of resources that are now available…".

Many would disagree. Including Neil Hill (RIP) who fought the sell off of council housing until his last breath…


See previous Salford Star articles…

Over Half Salford Council Homes Non Decent - click here

Picking Pendleton's Pockets - click here

Salford Council issues more PFI demolition notices - click here


This article is dedicated to the memory of Neil Hill.

       
julie massey wrote
at 9:38:36 AM on Monday, April 22, 2013
Hi I am reading these posts in 2013 I have just had an inspector from Salix to look into my complaint of no heating or hot water he seemed quite suprised to find out that we have had neither of these things since 2007
 
tom nolan wrote
at 1:32:01 AM on Sunday, July 22, 2012
i have lived on cannon hussey for the last 9 years and i know it has massive problems with damp etc..i am on economy 7 for my night storage heaters and by noon the next day they are cold again,so you have turn them on again at normal rates or have other types of heating ,ie £70.00 a week for electric is not uncommon during the very cold periods.for the last 9 years i havent decorated to much as we thought the blocks wr to be demolished, now it looks like and can have a warm comfortable home for the rest of my years i hope..i got o every meeting i can with forest and salix as of yet they are not saying about the surcharge so i dont know the facts..i have investigated the new heating system and from i can find out it should be one of the cheapest there is,apart from sittig arround and sleaping in my dads old navy gr8 coat..? who have the xspensive cars in the car park and live in a council dwelling.mine is a motability car by the way..
 
tom nolan wrote
at 1:31:16 AM on Sunday, July 22, 2012
oh the name chakotai..is that the african name translating to ...within darkness..?
 
Tom Titt wrote
at 1:14:36 AM on Friday, June 15, 2012
Well said , Nacht . Although I fear this madness has gone too far ..
 
Nachtschlepper wrote
at 9:33:03 AM on Thursday, June 14, 2012
The solution is simple all social housing should be under local government control. Only then will there be any notion of accountability. The very idea of council housing was to give those who could not afford to buy a house decent homes. We are living in dark times my friends, Thatcher's legacy is bearing fruit. Public services, utilities and transport have either in part or totally privatised and the unfortunate British people are bearing that burden. Only by looking to a socialist alternative can these evils be righted.
 
Michael Felse wrote
at 1:56:42 AM on Thursday, June 14, 2012
Horror and Shock at this information. Council rents should have been frozen for 33 years to encourage a greater take up of the 12,000 empty properties. The dangers of PFi were given to every house in Salford during the Mayor election and the above news feature under-states the bad impact on placing huge cost burdens on Salford people. The Mayor must act quickly to stop the rot that will destroy Salford. The City has a great opportunity to have a successful future. That future does not have space for massive debts, destruction of social housing or a council cabinet that cannot see past making the same wrong decisions that got it to the disastrous circumstance seen in this article.
 
Tom Titterington wrote
at 1:56:09 AM on Thursday, June 14, 2012
Wise words indeed , Reg Howard . Anybody who managed to save for their later years is now being screwed and cheated by the corrupt , immoral , criminal parasites who administer this despised society . Theses parasites deserve nothing but eternal contempt and hatred . Bastards , all of them .
 
caroline wrote
at 1:55:31 AM on Thursday, June 14, 2012
I agree 100% Reg howard.. Also Tahira Chakotai..My dad pensioner lives in salix managed home and had to endure no gas heating only occasionly putting on electric fire because of cost while his wife was ill and dying...oops ,,cut off..because not working correct. not to good ..But have to agree with both,, so called housing associations..were fully funded by goverment grants, not loans that had to be payed back...Sorry to say private landlords did not have that luxary and often run at little or no profit when all the costs had to be taken in to account ,so if they up the rents...just maybe they needed to ooops otherwise goverment would have to pay short fall.... So what is the answer?
 
Tahira Chakotai wrote
at 1:55:11 AM on Thursday, June 14, 2012
Irwell Running Through Me. I find your comment to be ill informed, at best. First may I say that you are correct when you say that I am a educated person, however, I am terminally ill, and cannot easily up sticks and move. Also your comment about graduates who live here, and can afford better, is completely rubbish. 92 percent of our tower block is full of service users, whom for what ever reason, need people like me, to support them, when dealing with Salix Homes Staff. I have moved 5 times in 7 years, due to my Salix Homes properties, not being fit for human habitation. This is disgusting, and I am trying to supply help to those, whom are living in the same type of accommodation. Before making generalised comments, may I suggest, that you investigate, as I do, all of the facts. I never go into any meeting with only half the information. In conclusion, I feel that you need to understand the bigger picture, before coming to any conclusion. However I appreciate the fact that you have made some attempt to comment on this topic, which does take a certain amount of courage. Maybe, with a little help from the Salford Star, and myself, we may be able to make a reporter out of you, within the near future. Best Wishes to you, from Mr. T.J. Chakotai, Independent Activist for Islington Way.
 
Reg Howard wrote
at 9:44:08 AM on Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Many people will be affected by these increases but non more than the pensioners who live in City Waste properties(not a typo).last year the pension increase was £4.20, so,the rent was increased by £5.40, this year the pension increase was £5.60,so, the rent increased by £6.80, so it would appear that the calculation formula used by City Waste is, wait for the pension increase to be announced,add £1.20 and that is the amount,simple isn't it ?.I know that many pensioners are on benefits and the increases will not affect them,but,there are lots of pensioners who have saved over their working years to provide a decent retirement income only to find that it being taken from them.By this I mean that if a pensioner has £16,000 or more in savings then they do not qualify for benefits and must pay full rent and council tax,to some people this may seem like a fair system but it must be remembered that people who have managed to save for their pension,did so by sacrificing in other areas,i.e not spending their money in pubs and bettings shops etc,but the reality of it is that by saving your money all you have done is to create a piggy bank for the council.In my case, I have a state pension which is £406.00 per month, I have to pay the council and City Waste a total of £438.00 per month in rent and council tax which as you can see leaves me with a shortfall of £32.00 per month so the council piggy bank must be raided just to live,so my advice to tenants is, don't save, blow your money on wine women and song,(you can just waste the rest)and you can then keep all of your pension to live on.
 
Irwell Running Through Me wrote
at 9:42:56 AM on Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Fantastic piece of work by Tahira. Brilliant. However, Canon Hussey is a great example of a block of flats in Salford with far too many young, graduates and professionals living there, for me to have much sympathy. Call me a an old grump, but Canon Hussey is one of those places which has been flocked to by people who can afford better; people with good jobs and an actual future; people with expensive degrees from local universities. And, because they love the idea of living in a Manchester Apartment, where you can read the time on the town hall clock, god knows how many desperate Salfordians are languishing on housing lists, never to see a roof. Sorry to moan but that whole,pseudo, yuppie apartment block grinds my gears. Tahira can always move out, I would say. Clearly this is not a person with zero education and zero opportunities. Perhaps these shithole, ghetto blocks should be one place were the people of Salford can at least be sure of a home. No offence :)
 
Fadge wrote
at 3:59:21 AM on Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Time to pull Stuart's chair away from under his slumbering carcass . Time for Stuart to get these very ' unhealthy' circumstances investigated . There is a very rotton stench hanging over this rotton city , emanating from the Clown Hall . 'Not through mismanagement of resources ' , squeaks obscene-salaried Waster Spicey . Very suspect . Wakey wakey Stuart . Time for action, not more bullshit .. kind regards to Neil and the Hill family .
 
Tahira Chakotai wrote
at 11:32:50 PM on Tuesday, June 12, 2012
P.S. God Bless Mr. Neil Hill. May you rest in peace, in the knowledge, that your fight carries on, within the minds, and actions of others, whom reside in Salford. Best Wishes to the Hill family, from Mr. T.J. Chakotai
 
Sue wrote
at 11:32:44 PM on Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Somebody is always getting richer from schemes involving no accountability , between governing bodies and the public , hold people responsible , use private sector not the council then they can provide a service for a agreed quotation . There is always diseption when there is no accountability for resources .
 
Tahira Chakotai wrote
at 10:38:21 PM on Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I live in a High Rise Tower Block, called Canon Hussey Court. It is having a refurbishment that makes no sense at all. First they are renewing all the fire doors, at a cost of 40,000 pounds. After a recent investigation, by the Salford Fire Station, it was found that the doors in our block were to British Fire Standards. All they need was a Self Closer, and a Luminescent Strip in the letter box, that can be fitted to each flat for 20 pounds. So why is Salix Homes wasting 40,000 pounds on Fire Doors? The second part of the refurbishment is to fit a new Eco-Pod Heating System. Now the money involved in doing this is an estimated 512,000 pounds. Now this sounds good at first glance, however it too seems to be a waste of taxpayers money. After a little trickery on my part, I got Salix Homes to admit there will be an estimated £7.22 surcharge, per tenant, per week. Which works out at £28.88 per month, per tenant, and that is before you turn your heating on. Then there is the Economy 7 Heating problem. As it stands, at the moment, tenants whom have storage heaters within their Salix Homes properties, have a reduced night charge for their electricity, however once the new Eco-Heating system has been installed, many tenants will loose this cheaper night tariff, thus causing an increase in quarterly bills. Combine the Eco-Pod Surcharge, and the increase in electricity bills, on average, a Salix Homes resident will be an estimated £238 pounds worse off, a year. Then there is the Cladding, that is said to cost over an estimated 1.2 million pounds. The tenants have been asking what is going on with the cladding, as it was found that Canon Hussey Court, had major structural problems, and it is believed that the extra weight of the external cladding, will cause severe structural stress throughout the tower block. So this may never happen, and that means that the damp and condensation problems will remain within the block, thus, the tower block will be unfit for human habitation. Then we come to the balconies. To date Forest, whom are the contractors Salix Homes are using, to complete the refurbishment of Canon Hussey Court, have informed tenants, that external balconies may be dismantled, and blocked off. This is to cost, in the region of 127,512 pounds. So by completing this part of the refurbishment, the tenants will be getting less property, for the same rent. Then there is the windows. Salix Homes has decided to refit the same rubbishy windows, as we have now, but they are grey. This will be done at a cost of 217,227 pounds. Tenants have also been told that these windows may not be draught proof. So why on earth are they fitting them? The last part of the refurbishment is the lifts. Our lifts are odd and even. For those who don't know, any person that lives on a even floor, and has to use the odd lift, will be forced to climb two flights of steep stairs, to get too it. In our block, we have some severely disabled tenants, some whom walk with sticks, and some who use wheel chairs. Salix Homes plans to turn off the lifts to upgrade them. How do the disabled get in and out of the tower block? This is costing an estimated 112,435 pounds of tax payers money. Even with this work completed, Canon Hussey Court will only have a estimated 4 to 5 years of use, before it has to be demolished. In conclusion, after reading this story, with or without the Con-Dem Government, Salix Homes properties are going to fall further into disrepair. If you add up the cost of the refurbishment to Canon Hussey Court, it comes to an estimated total of 4 million pounds. So the main question needs to be asked. Why, in this down turn economy, are Salix Homes, investing time, and money, at the tax payers expense, into properties, that only has a short life expectancy, and why are they demolishing good structurally sound properties, within established communities? Until that question is answered, and investigated, Salix Tenants will remain in damp, cold, and expensive properties. I hope after reading this story, and my comment, tenants will group together, and work as a team, to ensure that the grants Salix Homes have amassed, will be spent on refurnishing their properties, to a good standard, and not spent of frivolous ventures, that will make little or no difference to the living conditions of future council tenants.
 
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