The decision was taken last night to wind up St. George's Community Housing and return the housing function back to Basildon Borough Council. The reason was very simple, by combining the two organisations a saving of £1m can be made to both the Council's General Fund and the Housing Revenue Account. Moreover, the former Labour government's policy of requiring a separate housing organisation in order to access vital housing loans under the Decent Homes programme.
So, any reasonable person would think that reducing the duplication of having the two bodies and saving cash all round must be a good thing. To be fair the Labour Party voted in favour, as did one of the three Liberal Democrats, but the Council debate still turned up some very silly arguments against. The worst of these was that the Council must be rubbish at running social housing. This was stated by a number of speakers as if it was a well-known fact of equal standing with the world being spherical. The problem is that it isn't, the Council thing that is. The world really is round. Sorry guys.
That Councils have been bad at running housing in the past is as true as some Councils being bad at running services in general. The Staff at St. Georges were originally nearly all transfers from Basildon Council in the first place, and, of course, the same staff will be transferring back. Their IQs did not go up when they went to St. George's and they won't go down when they come back to the Council.
This doesn't mean that there isn't a great deal of hard work to do, and that there doesn't have to be a continued focus on housing in Basildon Borough. The trouble is that if you accept the argument that Councils can't run housing then you have a ready-made excuse for failure.
Our tenants don't need excuses. They need decently run homes.