Ad watchdog blasts council over its stock transfer blurb
Crawley has become the first local authority to be rapped by the advertising watchdog for making misleading claims in its stock transfer publicity.
The Advertising Standards Authority said this week it had upheld a complaint of the authority misleading tenants in publicity about the transfer of its homes to a housing association.
Crawley had breached an advertising code by telling tenants it had to find £12 million to meet the £60 million cost of bringing their homes up to the decency standard, the watchdog said.
The complainant, council tenant and Defend Council Housing member Michael Barratt, claimed the £60 million figure was misleading because it included the cost of bringing homes up to a standard beyond the minimum required.
The council was also found in breach of three clauses of the Committee of Advertising Practice's code for ‘unfairly denigrating' the Crawley branch of Defend Council Housing in DVD footage.
The film gave the impression that the branch's anti-transfer material was inaccurate, misleading and even threatening, the ASA said.
Crawley Council has now been ordered to explain how much of the £60 million cost relates to the minimum decent homes standard. It has also been instructed not to repeat its claims about Defend Council Housing publicity.
Crawley Council defended its £60 million figure, saying it was based on a stock condition survey. It was confident that all the material it produced on housing transfer consultation was in line with the guidelines set by the Communities and Local Government department, a spokesperson said.
The authority was ‘baffled and disappointed' by the ASA's decision, he added. The judgement raised issues for all local authorities running controversial consultations, he said. ‘We're disappointed because our materials and methods were no different to those used in the 400 or so transfer consultations undertaken by other councils before ours.'
The authority's sentiments were echoed by Tony Ingham, chief executive of PR firm IPB Communications, which has managed more than 50 stock transfer consultations, including Crawley's.
Complainant Mr Barratt said: ‘I'm not an accountant, I'm an ordinary tenant who's retired, saying that these figures do not stand up. Why should they start maligning us? All I've said is: “The emperor has got no clothes.”'
The ASA is still deliberating over a complaint made by the National Housing Federation about anti-transfer campaign literature produced by Defend Council Housing during the Fenland Council stock transfer.