BUSTED BRIDGE & THAT LONG AWAITED HOUSING STOCK BALLOT.

I missed the bang when a Huws Grey crane lorry foolishly tried to drive under the Station Road, Queens ferry bridge but it must have just happened. Driver looked shocked but how he thought a sticking-up crane could clear the bridge, I know not. I was heading for the Post Office Sorting Office and was able to drive past so I saw the crane touching the upper masonry and the dislodged lumps that lay on the road. The Sorting Office’s gates were closed and entry is on foot only owing to some health and safely rule. Amazing! In the past parking was laid out for customer’s use. All very convenient but not now.

By the time I had collected my package, a police car had sealed the road and I had to make the detour though Garden City. Disruption to traffic flows were evident as vehicles were queuing up to get to the Asda roundabout. A few seconds earlier and I would have been able to pop back under that damaged bridge before it was closed. At least no one was injured. I have an uneasy feeling that the Council may have to pay for the bridge repair under some old agreement. I hope not. It could be costly.

HOUSING STOCK TRANFER DECIDED.

THE RESULT of how council tenants had voted was announced at 6pm on Tuesday 20th March. As I had been part of the Stock transfer panel the CE courteously sent me an invitation but I declined and chose to plant fruit trees as being a more productive use of my time. I had been appointed by my Group to be their representative all those months ago and I had diligently attended most meetings and had given the project my best attention. Members’ involvement came quietly to an end last June and we never met as a panel again. We were supposed to be impartial and not express a view and to read a letter in the local paper recently from the Project panel manager almost inviting tenants to chose to transfer I felt this was not good form.

The result was a stunning failure or success dependant upon ones point of view. Flintshire recorded the biggest turnout across Wales and voted by 88% to stay with the Authority, just 766 residents, 12% wanted to let Dee Housing become their landlord. The result angered our Conservative AM who deplored the lost chance to bring all council houses up to a proper standard. And yet the demand to take housing stock away from local authorities had been around from the first months of the WAG Labour controlled administration in 1999. I was there when Alun Michael announced WAG’s wish to do this and it was not well received. Undeterred, Labour persisted over the years and by various ruses and offering to pay for the tenant’s ballot, councils had no choice but to take the decision to the tenants.

Labour cllrs joined the Stock Transfer Panel initially then thought better of it & withdrew from all discussions. These cllrs have been accused of scaremongering which, as stated has annoyed the N Wales conservative AM. So local Labour cllrs have actively campaigned, it seems; for a “no vote” against their own labour Government’s policy. The Anti voters have certainly done a good job and I suggest there will be rejoicing in the Labour camp. Bit rich for Flintshire’s Leader, Aaron Shotton to chide the Tory AM for wanting to move away from the Council as landlord to a social landlord. This is precisely what Welsh Government wanted and the bill to WAG, payable back to this Authority is £1.1m, as much work went into preparing for the ballot and many consultants did well from their advisory roles.

I shall be asking for very detailed costs that Flintshire has already incurred to do Welsh Government’s bidding to ensure that this Authority does get back all that it has paid out for ballot preparation. A million seems a small sum for months of deliberations. As we know, consultants don’t come cheap.

The right decision has been made. The Housing portfolio has changed dramatically for the better in the 3 plus years I’ve been on the Community & Housing scrutiny committee. Dead wood director moved on, new officers moved in and it’s changing into a vibrant and successful operation. We can keep valuable land that would have been lost to the Council and we are delivering a better quality of housing and making improvements and using local trades’ people as the extra bonus. I saw a pile of new kitchens awaiting installation when I recently visited the new Travis Perkins store that is now outsourcing all housing repair building and other materials.

Tenants will retain all their rights and will not be at the mercy of a social landlord that may not deliver despite being almost handed a golden goose by Welsh Government.

I will be taking Cllr Carolyn Cattermoul to lunch as it was she who deftly chaired the many weeks of consultation and then was dropped by zealous officers. She deserves a pat on the back, something yet to be given her by those who wanted a result other than the one delivered. Hooray for people power!

One Comment

  1. Colin says:

    Seen the same happen at Shotton Bridge. The look of disbelief on the drivers face when he realised what he had done. Didn’t make as much mess as the Queensferry one though.

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