The residents of Wolverhampton have every right to be worried about the impact of cuts to Wolverhampton City Council’s budget. The administration says its grants from Central Government have been cut by 52% since 2010. According to the local Express and Star paper:
They also say that without drastic cuts to council services the authority’s reserves will be reduced to a mere £670 000. In local government terms this would be the equivalent of being reliant on the loose change you can find down the back of the sofa.
Huge cuts, big impacts
This is bad news for the 1400 council staff who will lose their jobs over the next 5 years but the long term impact is likely to be even worse for the thousands of vulnerable people who will suffer as services are axed.
The community of Bushbury Hill is likely to be disproportionately impacted as there are more people likely to be reliant on the council services due to age, disability, poverty, low educational attainment and unemployment. For example, Low Hill Library is a crucial information resource and a place where people can get free internet access to help with things like job searches. If its opening hours are reduced to just 15 per week, it becomes effectively a skeleton service only.
I do not like to imagine what will happen to the many elderly and disabled Bushbury Hill residents who are reliant on Adult Social care or the disadvantaged children who need additional support as even services to these groups are cut to the bone.
What could this mean for the Right to Transfer?
This is relevant to the Right to Transfer in Bushbury Hill as it involves tenants making an informed decision as to where their long term interest lies. Wolverhampton City Council’s view is that they know best, and therefore council tenants should not have a choice about who their landlord is. In light of the financial position the authority finds itself in this appears a dogmatic position and such confidence seems misplaced.
It is entirely reasonable for tenants to ask themselves if they can rely on a landlord that does not have significant financial resources available. Whilst the Council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA) is ring-fenced and the immediate crisis is focussed on services paid for from the General Fund, it would be naïve to believe that it will have no impact on housing. It is well known that the ring-fence is pretty leaky and that significant sums of rent money ends up supporting other Council services. Given the unprecedented financial pressure on the Wolverhampton City Council it would be incredible to think that they won’t look to the HRA as a source of additional income.
If the tenants of Bushury Hill have an option of transferring to a landlord who is not only solvent, but has a far healthier balance sheet than Wolverhampton City Council, would this not be entirely rational? If they can choose a landlord who can and will spend more of their rent money on their homes and services, would this not be entirely logical? If they prefer a landlord who can focus solely on delivery, rather than expend most of its energy on crisis management would this not be common sense? In other words, who wouldn’t choose a cruise ship making full steam for tropical climes over a tramp steamer holed beneath the water line in the frozen Arctic.