A ROW has broken out between Stroud District Council and representatives of the authority's sheltered housing schemes over changes to the way services are run.

Due to a forthcoming cut in funding from the county council, SDC has been forced to reduce the number of managers it employs in its sheltered housing projects by around a half.

No staff will be made redundant but the district council is currently in the process of replacing its 32 housing managers, 29 of whom are based permanently on site, with a roaming team of 15 managers.

Council leaders say the new mobile service will see managers making daily visits to tenants and will provide an improved out-of-hours response, as well as a service that covers longer hours each day.

However, United Sheltered Accommodation Panel (USAP), which represents around 900 of SDC's 1,000 sheltered housing tenants, has reacted angrily to the changes, with members of the group accusing the council of taking 'draconian action'.

At the end of January USAP withdrew from negotiations with council officers and a cross-party group of district councillors in protest at the changes.

SDC has since said it no longer recognises the group as the legitimate voice of sheltered housing tenants and at a meeting of the full council on Thursday night (April 25), the authority's leader Geoff Wheeler (Lab, Dursley) said it had no obligation to work with groups which behaved 'so unreasonably'.

Responding to a question from a sheltered housing tenant on Thursday, Cllr Wheeler, said: "The council remains committed to its sheltered housing service and will work to maintain high standards here.

"It must, however, be understood that external funding changes mean that we could lose up to half a million pounds to the service and must therefore make difficult decisions."

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Debbie Young (Con, Chalford) said the priority now was for the district council to create alternative structures through which sheltered housing tenants could express their views.

In a statement issued by SDC on Friday morning, Tim Power, the authority's head of housing management, said: "To account for this gap in representation, we are consulting directly with tenants to make sure that their voices are heard.

He added: "All political parties remain on the project board and are committed to the project to ensure the best possible outcome."

USAP have submitted complaints against two councillors and an investigation into the allegations is ongoing.