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COUNCILLORS KEEP LOCAL DEMOCRACY ALIVE IN SOCIAL HOUSING

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Councillors can still have a vital impact on the development of social housing in their area, even where council es...
Councillors can still have a vital impact on the development of social housing in their area, even where council estates have transferred from local authority control, according to a new publication launched today by the local democracy thinktank, the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU).

The Essential Guide to Housing Strategy for Councillors, produced in partnership with the Housing Quality Network, highlights examples of best practice from councils around the country. Some of the councils studied have transferred their housing stock to registered social landlords or set up Arm's Length Management Organisations (ALMOs). In contrast, other councils featured have kept their housing stock.

The transfer of council housing has coincided with changes in the political management structures of local authorities and a range of new council responsibilities - in areas such as regeneration, health, crime prevention and education - that impact upon housing strategy. As well as dealing with housing issues in their wards, councillors can now find themselves as cabinet executive members for housing; scrutiny chairs or panel members examining housing service delivery or related areas in health and social services; or as board members of housing associations and local housing companies.

The Essential Guide to Housing Strategy for Councillors aims to show elected members how to refocus their strategic role once they have completed stock transfer and how their role is changing, even where housing stock has not been transferred.

Dennis Reed, LGIU chief executive, said: 'Social housing in the 21st century will take many forms other than the traditional model of council housing.

'The LGIU has criticised the restricted choice available to local authorities, and their tenants, for access to sources of investment for social housing. However, councillors around the country have risen to the challenge of adapting their roles and responsibilities from managerial landlords to major enabler s and partners in regeneration. They have reasserted their community leadership role.

'Irrespective of whether councils and their tenants opt for stock transfer, enterprising councillors are influencing housing strategy across all tenures, ensuring that the different models of accountability that are encountered under registered social landlords work for their communities. Transferring housing stock need not mean transferring the strategic role of councillors in housing. Local democracy can still be a key player.'

Notes

1. The Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) is Britain's foremost independent local democracy think tank, campaigning to extend local authority best practice, freedoms and responsibilities. Recent initiatives have included the Commission on Local Governance and the LGIU is working to influence the debate on local government modernisation. The LGIU and its education service TEN (The Education Network) also provides research, policy briefings, information, advice, training and lobbying services to 150 local authority and trade union affiliates.

2. The Essential Guide to Housing Strategy for Councillors contains case studies from councils in Carrick, Derby, Southampton, Blackburn with Darwen, Three Rivers, Telford and Wrekin, Blyth Valley, St Edmundsbury, Ipswich and Leicester.

3. The author of the guide, Kevin Morton, is a councillor at Tower Hamlets LBC. He also has experience of the evolving role of councillors in housing strategy as a board member of Poplar HARCA, the first local housing company in the country set up to manage and regenerate council housing in an urban area.

4. Copies of The Essential Guide to Housing Strategy for Councillors are on sale at £20 each (£10 to LGIU affiliates) from Central Books on 0845 458 9910, 0845 458 9912 (fax) or e-mail mo@centralbooks.com.

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