Council tenants could soon make decisions about the borough’s frontline housing services and estate repairs if a proposed Kingston Council initiative is agreed.

But some have claimed the housing scheme represents a “worrying” and “appalling” trend in the way the administration approaches consultations.

Kingston is recommending the set-up of a Community Housing Trust (CHT) that would elect a board of residents to deal with the majority of council housing concerns, such as rent collection, in the borough.

While the scheme has achieved cross-party backing and support from the Kingston Federation of Residents, the council has been criticised for treating its go-ahead as a foregone conclusion.

A questionnaire on the council website’s consultations page only allows residents to pledge their support for the project. It does not allow for feedback.

Council tenant Derek Moss, of the Alpha Road estate, said: “It is appalling that they [the council] are refusing to allow residents an independently audited vote on these far-reaching proposals and are counting anyone who says they think it ‘sounds like a good idea’ after being cornered on their doorstep as a supporter, without telling them that this is how their answers will be used.”

Surrey Comet:

The Alpha Road estate in Surbiton

Federation secretary Richard Grosvenor said it was “fair” residents had questioned the lack of consultation.

He said: “Information has been vague. I think the council have realised this and there are more events planned. This should have all been done six months ago.”

Surrey Comet:

Richard Grosvenor from The Kingston Federation of Residents

Kingston Council leader Kevin Davis said: “This project is basically about giving power to the residents themselves. This is not my idea, not the council’s idea.

“There doesn’t have to be a yes or no answer for a CHT because we are not changing much. We are keeping the housing stock.

“I am not sure what percentage of people need to support it [for it to go ahead].

“It is probably not a high figure given how many residents will be interested in this anyway.”

He added the CHT set-up for the borough was brought to the attention of councillors as the brainchild of Kingston Federation of Residents.

The CHT “consultation” pledge asks residents to agree to up to four points including: spreading the word by telling friends, family and neighbours about the trust and displaying promotional material.

A poster and door-knocking campaign is said to have begun across the borough in May.

The council only need to “demonstrate support” for a CHT to be set up – but it has set itself no target level to measure support.

Under the trust, housing stock would remain council-owned and the council said it therefore did not need to ballot to go ahead.

Surrey Comet:

Housing cabinet member Councillor Cathy Roberts has her say

Harry Hill, CHT shadow board member and Cambridge Road Estate Residents’ Association head, said: “In principle I agree with the scheme.

“However, the council does need to provide residents with more information about what would happen under the proposals.”

Liberal Democrat opposition leader Councillor Liz Green said: “It seems to be a worrying trend with this administration to not consult people.”


  • What is a Community Housing Trust (CHT)?

An independent, not-for-profit company owned by the council. The CHT would manage and deliver the large majority of frontline housing services on behalf of the council, including repairs and rents. If successful the CHT might be given responsibility for areas including homelessness and emergency housing.

  • How many people would this affect?

Kingston has about 6,500 council tenants and leaseholders all of whom would have a vote in elections.

  • Who runs a CHT?

The majority of board members will be elected council house tenants and leaseholders but a mix of officers and housing professionals will also be employed. Tenants or leaseholders will nominate the board who will then be chosen by an independent ballot. To qualify as a board member, candidates must live in the borough, be over 18, and a council tenant or leaseholder, residing in their leasehold property.

  • Who will own your house?

There will be no change in ownership. The council will retain its housing stock and ultimate responsibility for housing.

  • How much will a CHT cost to set up?

Kingston Council has not yet fully calculated how much a CHT will cost to set up but Kingston Federation of Residents has estimated it will be about £200,000.

  • How many people will the CHT employ?

The CHT is likely to employ about 115 staff, but this may be more if it is given increased responsibilities.

  • Will board members be payed?

They will be paid expenses only.

  • How often will elections be held?

Still to be decided but Kingston Council has estimated that it could be every three years.

And some more facts...

-With an average 34 per cent of voters turning out in council byelections, if a similar number voted in the CHT elections, board members would have a lot of power to make decisions despite being voted in by a small percentage.

-Kingston Council has yet to decide on many aspects of the portfolio.

-There are fears the scheme could lead to privatisation of homes, although this would need a resident ballot and Government approval.

-In theory a CHT would be better protected from cuts through its independence from cash-strapped council budgets.

-There are 42 CHTs in the country and none have failed so far. However the vast majority have only been set up in the past few years.