In 2014, there was an all out political war over whether to vote 'Yes' or 'No' to the transfer to Salix Homes of thousands of Salford City Council owned houses and flats.
Back then, Salix was an ALMO, or 'arms length management organisation', under the control of Salford Council - but both the leading lights on the Council and Salix itself urged tenants to vote 'Yes' to the transfer, with a barrage of propaganda to go with it (see previous Salford Star articles – click here and click here).
As well as promising stuff like new kitchens and wonderful decent homes, Salix also promised that, if the vote went in its favour, the company would morph into a mutual, or co-operative, in which its tenants and staff had a huge say in how it was run.
In January 2014, for instance, Salix issued a press release under the heading of a 'Bright future for social housing tenants', gushing that "Exciting plans have been announced to launch one of the UK's first social housing co-operatives in Salford...
"Salford City Council has given the green light for Salix Homes to become a 'mutual' organisation, owned by tenants and employees, if residents support plans for a proposed stock transfer" it added.
The company underlined the point over and over again in the press release, in case anyone missed it "...If tenants vote 'Yes' to transfer, Salix Homes is poised to become one of the first employee co-owned mutual housing providers in the country, giving tenants greater control over the way housing services are provided.
"A new mutual Salix Homes would be owned by and accountable to its members, made up of tenants and employees, creating a new form of genuine public ownership with true resident involvement."
The naked propaganda went on and on and on...with Salix's Chief Executive Joe Willis, who's now gone, stating "A new mutual Salix Homes would be based on the longstanding principles of co-operation and mutuality providing a bright future for social housing tenants in Salford who, in partnership with Salix Homes' employees, will be in charge of the future of their homes. However, this bold vision can only become a reality if tenants vote for transfer."
And then there was Gena Merrett, Salford's Assistant Mayor for Housing, who has also now disappeared from the political face of the earth. She spewed: "Becoming a 'mutual' would ensure that residents are involved at every level of Salix Homes. This vision of staff and tenants working closely together to shape the future for Salix Homes is a hugely exciting prospect, but it is the kind of opportunity that can only become reality if residents vote for the transfer."
They even got a tenant, Barbara Harper, in on the act..."A mutual Salix Homes would be a relationship of equals with employees and tenants working together to help shape the future of housing in Salford, but this exciting opportunity for the people of Salford will not be possible if the homes remain under council ownership..."
How could anyone resist voting 'Yes' to the transfer? In the event, after a campaign by union reps, housing activists and rogue Labour Party councillors, around 40% of tenants did vote against the transfer but it wasn't enough and the transfer went ahead.
Now, four years later, and sneaked into a report to be seen by councillors next week, Salix comes clean that the promise has been smashed to pieces...
"...the Board reviewed a detailed independent report on customer and employee engagement. One of the bases for that report was to fulfil the stock transfer promise to consider whether to become a mutual organisation. On the back of the evidence provided, the Board decided that becoming a mutual organisation would not be in Salix Homes best interests..."
A promise to consider becoming a mutual??? That is not what was implied categorically in the press release pimping for people's votes. George Orwell would be proud!
So now, Salix Homes remains as, well, no-one is quite sure...It calls itself a 'Charitable Society' (but is not featured on the Charities Commission website) and a 'Registered Provider of Social Housing'...
The report to the Council also adds a request by Salix to remove two, out of four, councillors from its Board, thereby reducing accountability further.
Meanwhile, Salix has set up two subsidiary profit making private companies, Salix Homes Developments Ltd and Salix Living Ltd, as it moves more and more into providing market sales and rent properties, or as it states, 'future commercial activities'.
The last set of Salix Homes accounts, for 2016-17, show that the company made almost £8.5million surplus and had reserves of £43.5million.
The highest paid employee at Salix Homes, Chief Exec Lee Sugden, trousered £133,000 plus £26,260 pension payments. Two other staff also earned between £90,000 and £100,000...
The report by Salix Homes will be going to the full meeting of Salford Council next week. P.S. The councillors never, ever, discuss these reports which are always at the end of the agenda; they just 'note' them and scurry off for lunch...