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Date 14 November 2006

Highland: UNISON urges tenants to vote NO before ballot ends

UNISON Highland Branch have issued a further statement urging tenants to vote no in the housing stock transfer ballot which closes next Tuesday (21st November). If you do not use your vote you may well end up with a private landlord, that you do not want, by default..

UNISON believes that stock transfer would not be in the best interests of tenants and urges Highland tenants to follow the example of Edinburgh, Stirling and Renfrewshire tenants who all voted no to transfer. A fourth successive defeat for one of the Scottish Executive's flagship policies would ensure that the practical other alternatives which exist need to be adopted and allow housing to remain under the democratic control of Highland Council.

Aderyn Coull, UNISON Highland's Housing Lead Steward said: "Tenants should not be conned by Highland Council suggesting that this is the only way their houses will be upgraded to the Scottish Quality Housing Standard. Staying with Highland Council or transferring to another landlord will not affect this requirement.

"All the evidence from other local authorities like Glasgow and the Borders show that transfer does not work, particularly in a rural setting due to the high costs of proceeding to second stage transfer. Highland is unlikely to be any different, especially when the costs involved will be increased by the large geographic area.

UNISON opposes stock transfer because of the loss of democratic accountability and also because it is bribery. UNISON believes that there are alternatives but that the Scottish Executive has chosen not to follow them.

The Labour party's own conference has for the last three years voted for the fourth option which would allow councils to borrow on the same basis as housing associations. Borrowing costs for councils are lower and this enables more repairs and renovations to be accomplished more quickly and cheaper."

UNISON Highland Branch Convener Munro Ross added: "Glasgow is seeking an additional £500 million from the Scottish Executive to implement second stage transfer due to the complex legal and financial difficulties involved. The Highland Housing Association makes no allowances for the costs of second stage transfer in its business plan so who will pay these costs? Will Highland Housing Association also seek additional public finance from the Scottish Executive or will they simply drop these proposals and keep to their centralised structure?

"I urge tenants who are unsure of the impact transfer will have on them to vote NO as there will be no turning back if it is passed into an outside organisation which has not yet got charitable status and is therefore still a private company."


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Aderyn Coull, UNISON Housing Lead Steward, telephone 07881452137 Munro Ross, UNISON Highland Branch Convener, mobile 07802 422243 UNISON Highland Branch 53 Shore Street, Inverness, IV1 1NF