Tennants press to take over running of housing estate : Residents of 1,460 flats have voted to oust council control. Martin Whitfield reports

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

ANN SILVER came around to supporting tenants' management of the estate where she lives after having to sit on her lavatory with an umbrella.

A plumbing leak in the flat above remained unrepaired for weeks until the ceiling fell down. 'It was like the Thames. Water was running down the wall,' she said.

Mrs Silver, a 72-year-old widow, has lived on the Tabard Gardens estate in Southwark, south London, for 45 years and has little to say in favour of council management. 'They had people around here at 9am telling me that if I did not pay my rent I would be evicted. They should know old people like me gets our rent paid.'

Like 89 per cent of tenants who voted in a secret ballot, Mrs Silver is an enthusiastic supporter of the tenant management co-operative which yesterday complained to Sir George Young, Minister for Housing, that it was being obstructed by Southwark council.

Tenant co-ops are one of the several mechanisms encouraged by the Government for removing housing management from local authority control.

Nick Robinson, chair of the tenants' association, said the final straw came when Southwark offered pounds 500,000 less to run the 1,460-flat estate than it currently spends. 'We have waited six months with them stringing us along and then they finally come out against us.'

The former Greater London Council estate consists of about 40 blocks of 1930s four- and five-storey flats. The efforts of the tenants' association for 25 years have meant communal areas have not fallen into a state of disrepair common on city estates.

The co-operative, which would become the largest of the 67 tenant management groups in the country, says it needs pounds 1.9m to provide the full range of services. Southwark has offered pounds 1.5m. 'The problem is that we have a finite budget. We have had strong representation from other tenants saying we have gone far enough,' Jim Wintour, area director of housing, said.

The Leasehold, Housing and Urban Development Bill provides for arbitration for disgruntled tenants but will not come into force until 1 April next year.

For Fritroy Lyn, 52, a tenant since 1975, the changes cannot come fast enough. 'My window frames are rotten,' he said.