HC Deb 27 April 1983 vol 41 cc850-1
4. Mr. Leighton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy towards the future ownership and administration of estates owned by local authorities outside their areas.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Sir George Young)

The Government's view is that it is generally preferable for municipal housing to be owned and managed by the authority in whose area it lies.

Mr. Leighton

Why did the Department hold referendums in the Newham estates in Hutton and Elm Park, which produced overwhelming majorities to stay with Newham, only to ignore the results completely? Is the Minister aware that many of the elected representatives of Newham feel that they are being robbed of valuable property that is central to their housing strategy and that that has resulted in bitterness and anger? Will the hon. Gentleman review his policy and make the wishes of the tenants paramount?

Sir George Young

We took into account the views of the tenants expressed in the referendums before we announced our decision, but localised management accessible to the tenants is likely to be of a higher standard than remote management. Inevitably, when an estate is managed by an authority outside the local authority area in question, it is more likely to be remote, whereas if it is managed by the local authority in whose area it is situated, it can be more closely integrated with the other services that the local authority provides. For those two reasons, I believe that the decision was correct.

Mr. McCrindle

Does my hon. Friend accept that many tenants on the Newham estate in Brentwood welcome the prospect of becoming tenants of the local authority to which they already pay their rates, thereby increasing their identification with the local community? Will he press on regardless with his intentions?

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend makes a worthwhile point that the existing Brentwood tenants are well satisfied with the services provided by that local authority. I am confident that were another referendum to be conducted in a few years' time, tenants would be equally satisfied with the services that they had received from their new landlord.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

We are not talking about a few years' time. The Minister has admitted that in a referendum 75 per cent. of tenants said that they were quite happy with things as they are. How can he fail to take that into consideration? Does that mean that if 75 per cent. of the Cowley workers decided to go back to work he would say, "Take no notice. Remain on strike"?

Sir George Young

As I have explained, the views of the tenants expressed in the referendum was one of the factors that we took into account. In the context of the actual number of tenants eligible to vote, the number voting to stay with Newham fell to about 58 per cent. For the reasons that I have given, it makes sense for the estates to be managed by the local authority in whose area they lie

Mr. Squire

Is my hon. Friend aware that within the past five years the London borough of Havering, within which the Elm Park estate lies, has transferred about 300 homes to other authorities because they were without its boundaries and in pursuance of the logic that all council homes should be within one area? Moreover, the service given by the London borough of Newham to many of my constituents who tried to purchase and had to wait a long time does not put that authority in the best position to put itself forward as advancing the interests of its tenants.

Sir George Young

My hon. Friends have an important role to play in assuring the tenants of the high quality service that they will receive from their new landlords.

Mr. Leighton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

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