Campaigners win ruling in battle for council homes
CAMPAIGNERS opposed to the transfer of Neath Port Talbot and Swansea Valley council homes to a new landlord have welcomed a ruling that the authority incorrectly withheld information from them.
As the Post has previously reported, members of the local Defend Council Housing (DCH) campaign requested the addresses — but not the names — of council tenants so they could send them information ahead of the historic ballot on the future of council homes.
But the request was refused by the council on the grounds that, to release addresses for its tenants would breach data protection and human rights.
Following a complaint made to the Information Commissioner's Office, the body has ruled "that the public authority did not deal with the request for information in accordance with the Act".
It also found "a number of procedural breaches" in the way the council handled the request.
Huw Pudner, of the DCH campaign, said: "The legal ruling by the Information Commissioner has revealed serious shortcomings in Neath Port Talbot Council."
He said that, "time and time again the council delayed and prevaricated" when it refused to provide the information that had been lawfully requested.
Last March 6,366 tenants voted in the ballot to decide the future of more than 9,000 council homes.
The council claimed transferring them to a social landlord was the best way of ensuring they were brought up to standards set by the Assembly.
A total of 3,600 tenants supported the transfer to not-for-profit landlord NPT Homes and 2,758 were against it.
Mr Pudner claimed the issue of the campaigners being denied information "undoubtedly had a bearing on the result".
He added: "The council was warned that it was abusing the democratic process but chose to carry on.
"It is now time for the council to halt its discredited stock transfer plan."
The Information Commissioner has given the council 35 days from the date of the decision notice to release the information requested to campaigners.
It said that failure to comply might result in the Commissioner writing to the High Court and might be dealt with as a contempt of court.
However, either party has the right to appeal against the decision notice.
A council spokeswoman said: "The council confirms that it has received a letter from the Information Commissioner and will respond within the deadlines stipulated."