13 minute council meeting to decide fate of 5,500 council homes
THIRTEEN minutes was all it took for politicians to decide the future of 5,500 council homes in Gloucester.
Debt-ridden Gloucester City Council is planning to sell its housing stock to Gloucester City Homes in a bid to write off its £62.5million of housing debt.
The sale could pave the way for a new wave of social housing to be built in the city and thousands of residents would have Gloucester City Homes as their new landlord.
But cabinet members took just 13 minutes at a meeting on Wednesday night to agree to the plan.
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Council leader Paul James yesterday defended the brevity of the meeting.
He said: "The only item on the agenda was to make recommendations to full council on the proposed housing stock transfer which was due to be debated in detail the next day.
"Cabinet meetings usually last around an hour, occasionally longer and sometimes shorter. They are not extended unnecessarily.
"The majority of day-to-day business does not require a formal cabinet resolution. The length of formal meetings does not always reflect the amount of work taking place in the background."
A full meeting of councillors was due to meet last night to agree on whether or not to go ahead with the proposed sale.
The council would then need to seek Government approval for the move.
Some have expressed their concern at the idea saying it could spell bad news for tenants in the future.
During the debate, tenants took to Twitter to express their anger. One said: "It won't work, it can't work and who will suffer? Tenants, that's who."
Susan Powell, spokesman for Cheltenham and Gloucester Against Cuts, said: "Taking just 13 minutes to decide just shows that this is not a decision based on considered arguments. It is absolutely farcical.
"This is public housing and what they are doing is privatising it through the back door. Once it is gone, it is gone, yet none of us know when we might need to rely on this housing.
"They argue that this will support the case for affordable public housing but they are saying one thing and doing the exact opposite."
City MP Richard Graham believes that it is a good idea. He said: "The decision made by the city council on our social housing is one of the most important it will make for a long time.
"The case for this change is that it ensures Gloucester City Homes' ability to use its revenue flows for future investment into both existing and new social housing. It will give them a new role in housing led regeneration."
Mr Graham added that a strong vote of approval from the council would give him more power in asking the Government to write off more of the £62.5million debt.
If the plan is approved by the Government the sale could be made by 2015.
It could allow new social housing to built in the city to alleviate the 5,000-strong waiting list for properties.