Saturday, 6 November 2010

Gas is a Blast!

Irlam has featured heavily in national news media, because of the event on Merlin Road/Silver Street this week.  It is alleged that a gas pipe disconnected during improvement works, led to explosion which will mean that 10 homes will now be demolished.  Not the best thing to happen before Christmas, but the fact no one was killed is nothing short of a miracle.  A local fund has been set up to support the families and the Vesperados are planning a charity bike run, indicating that there is some community spirit left somewhere.  Even David Cameron has pledged that the victims will receive  special assistance.

National news coverage, rather unsurprisingly, has focused more on the human interest angle of the disaster. An investigation is under way as to the exact cause of the blast, although many other local resident remain concerned about the continuation of housing improvements undertaken by City West Properties, the arms length organisation that owns and maintains many houses in Irlam and Cadishead. The Manchester Evening News has made some damaging allegations about the contractors used by City West to carry out work on their behalf, although the voracity of their claims is open to question. But it is going to be an interesting few months, with so many homes controlled by City West.

It may come as a surprise to many people, and especially readers of the Daily Mail, that there are few genuine council houses left in England.  Between1979 and 2003, 2,657,000 properties were taken out of public control (ONS, 2010).  Some 60% of these transfers occurred through the Right-to-Buy scheme, and around 29% via  Large Scale Voluntary Transfers, whereby local tenants on an estate vote to move en masse out local authority control, with management passing to a Registered Social Landlord or an Arms-Length Management Organisation (ALMO).  City West Housing Trust are an ALMO established in 2008 who manage 14,600 properties on behalf of Salford Council in the west of the city.  They are currently investing £235m over five years to renovate and improve this housing stock. A typical 3 bedroom terrace will cost around £76 a week to rent from City West.

It may also come as a surprise that most local authorities have failed to benefit financially from these developments.   Council's were forbidden by Thatcher from re-investing the capital receipts from council house sales into repairing their existing stock.  Consequently local government loss most of its prime stock to private individuals who often acquired properties way below their market value.  Good news for them, but not local government who left with limited funds to manage its most problematic estates.  As such, the 'sink estate' was born, isolated housing estates which were poorly funded, until mass transfers took place from the 1990s onwards.

Clearly it is good news for residents to have their homes improved, even if they are paying rents now much closer to market averages.  But concerns remains about the opening up poorer estates to the vagaries of financial markets and the quest for profit, which often sees public service standards replaced by cost-cutting and lapse safety regimes.

ocal people, especially those who have lost their homes this week, I am sure will be extremely interested in the current investigation into the explosion on Merlin Road.


No comments:

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon