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RESIDENTS' VOTE SCUPPERS WESTMINISTER TRANSFER PLAN

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Westminster City Council's proposals to transfer more than 500 council homes to a housing association were rejected...
Westminster City Council's proposals to transfer more than 500 council homes to a housing association were rejected this week when residents voted to stay with the council. For more than a year the council has been negotiating a proposed voluntary transfer of the 1920s Grosvenor Estate to the Peabody Trust. Incentives on offer from the housing association included a 10 year rent guarantee, the longest ever offered in a voluntary transfer.

Peabody also drew up plans for residential caretakers and improved security arrangements. But nearly 70% of the 453 residents turning out to vote opted this week to stay with the city council.

Graham England, Westminster's director of housing, said the residents' vote of confidence in the council's housing management was 'very heartening'. 'The voluntary transfer has given residents a chance to think about how their estate is run - and to choose who runs it', he said.

The grade two listed estate is owned by the Duke of Westminster. Under the transfer proposals, the 900 year lease would have transferred to the Peabody Trust, which already manages more than 2,500 properties in Westminster.

George Barlow, director of the housing association, said he believed 'the promise of a residential caretaking service, the guarantee on rents for 10 years and the proximity of neighbouring estates represented an attractive package to residents'. He said that the residents had 'a good landlord in the city council and the ballot outcome confirms the value they attach to this'. Westminster City Council is one of the councils chosen by the government to pilot the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering to housing management.

It will shortly be inviting companies to put in bids to manage the 1,700 unit Paddington Green estates and the1,200 unit Churchill Gardens estate.

l More than 2,000 Rother DC tenants this week voted against a proposed transfer of their homes to the Downland Housing Society. Had they voted in favour, it would have been the first large scale voluntary transfer to an established housing association.

Just over 79% of the council's 3,733 tenants took part in the ballot. Nearly 46% voted in favour and 54% against.

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