Please may I correct the serious misconceptions reported by yourselves and in subsequent letters from Brian Edmonds and Cllr Hyman regarding Waverley’s proposed investment in more and better council housing in Elstead.

Waverley’s council housing is categorically not funded by our council taxpayers. The operation, maintenance, repair, refurbishment and even new construction of our council homes is wholly funded out of the rents paid by our tenants. Our 30-year housing business plan demonstrating this is public and publicly refreshed around this time each and every year. What is also often overlooked is that the council also operates a Landlord Services Advisory Board on which tenant representatives sit and are directly involved in defining and delivering our housing strategy.

Specific to the Elstead scheme the estimated cost budget is £10m, and I note the figure of £17m that has been misreported actually includes a second scheme in Godalming. 

The council has published its initial report for the Elstead scheme which, to be clear, will lead to a net increase in desperately needed dwellings from 10 to 26 before even considering the improved quality of the new homes. The published cost budget of £10 million – which does include site preparation – was prepared and validated by independent professional advisers, and any detail in the business plan that has been kept confidential has been done so specifically to protect the integrity of the council’s competitive tendering process that is still to come.  If the tender bids exceed those cost estimates the scheme will have to be revisited and the report describes these and the many other checks and balances in place to ensure value for money before the scheme can actually commence.

The report also demonstrates how the scheme will be self-financing.  But even the confidential elements of the business case are scrutinised by councillors.  As the report clearly states, these include alternative options.  It is beyond ironic that Mr Edmonds should ask “why was the option of selling to a developer not considered and evaluated” but choose to offer up of all things Farnham’s Woolmead – a private development – as an example of how well that could go.

In fact such an option was considered and always is, but the legal restrictions on what the council can and can’t do with its council housing land and buildings – including selling them – are quite rightly very strict.  The same applies to what can be done with the proceeds should council house land or buildings ever be sold. The monetary value of this land in Elstead, which is already owned by the council, is similarly encumbered but for the avoidance of doubt Waverley will not be paying for it again.

The provision of good quality housing for all income levels and age groups is a key strategic priority for the council, and one on which this administration was so convincingly relected less than a year ago. The pursuit of such social outcomes is the “value” half of the value-for-money equation which is enshrined across the public sector and monitored for example in Waverley by our overview and scrutiny and audit committees and our external auditors, and nationally by the National Audit Office.

Mark Merryweather

Councillor, Farnham – Moor Park

Portfolio Holder for Finance, Assets & Property

Waverley Borough Council