BOARD members of River Clyde Homes have been branded 'puppets' over its controversial plans to transfer repairs staff to a subsidiary company.

Councillor Colin Jackson says approximately 50 workers could be left working as far afield as Ayrshire and Lanarkshire if the merger - which is the subject of a strike ballot by staff - goes ahead.

Mr Jackson fears local tenants will have to wait longer for repairs and is angry at the way the proposal, part of a new five-year business plan, has been handled.

Councillor Jackson said: "Management with the backing of their board have ploughed on regardless with a business plan that will push River Clyde Homes workers who carry out all maintenance and repairs into a subsidiary company.

"Management and the board have consistently dismissed concerns on the effects this merger will have on tenants and residents.

"These 50 operatives who work solely on repairs in Inverclyde will now be doing work as far a field as Irvine up to Cumbernauld.

"This will result in a poorer service for tenants and residents, for example, a job that would normally carry a response time of three days will now move to 15 days."

Cllr Jackson slammed the local authority's representatives on the board, accusing them of letting people down.

He said: "I have raised workers' concerns with board members previously and am dismayed that not one board member has spoken with the workers, tenants or the trade unions.

"It is even more worrying that tenants and residents have been kept completely in the dark.

"I would ask that tenants and residents get to have a say on the merger, and the board come out from behind their desks and go and engage with the workers and tenants and stop being management puppets."

The two council representatives on the board, the SNP's Chris Curley and Tory Graeme Brooks today responded to the criticism.

Councillor Curley says he is firmly in favour of the plans which are under attack from Cllr Jackson.

He said: "The proposals being considered by River Clyde Homes have at their heart the desire to improve services to tenants and grow the River Clyde Homes business.

"As a board member, I want River Clyde Homes to be a successful business, continually improve our services, and sustain and increase our workforce in Inverclyde.

"I am fully supportive of the plans to reorganise River Clyde Homes, which should help the organisation thrive in the future."

Fellow board member Cllr Brooks told the Telegraph: "All board members are fully supportive of the plans to grow River Clyde Homes, secure jobs for the long term and most importantly make sure our services continually improve."

River Clyde Homes owns 5,800 homes and provides factoring to a further 2,200 and bosses have defended the planned shake-up, saying it is part of a plan to secure and create more jobs in Inverclyde.

Richard Turnock, their director of group services, said: “River Clyde Homes has had its own subsidiary company since the date of the stock transfer, it is nothing new.

"For the past three years it has been carrying out a range of activities for our tenants including grounds maintenance, close cleaning and property improvements.

"The proposal to move our repairs and maintenance team into our own subsidiary is part of a bigger plan to build River Clyde Homes, secure and create more jobs in Inverclyde and ensure we can continue to improve all our services”.

Mr Turnock also says staff and their representatives have been consulted.

He said: “We have been talking to all our staff, and their representatives, for a number of months about our plans.

"We have already met with our Customer Senate and wider membership to discuss our plans and the reasons why change is needed.

"It has been stressed that we aim to improve services where they need to improve, provide new services where they are needed and keep our rents and charges affordable.

"As for our repairs and maintenance service we want to improve tenant satisfaction with its quality, not reduce it.

"We will continue to meet with staff and their representatives, keep our board informed accordingly and once the current consultation is concluded, confirm to our customers when any changes will take place and most importantly how these will help to further improve all our services.”