THURROCK Council has agreed a new policy for tenants aimed at freeing up larger houses for families and tackling anti-social behaviour.

Included in the policy are financial incentives for tenants to downsize and “probation” periods that will assess whether a new tenant is likely to cause trouble in their home.

There will also be an increase in the number of options available to residents, through partnerships with housing associations as well as part-ownership schemes that will help first-time buyers.

The council’s portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Val Morris-Cook, said the policy “will ensure all social landlords grant tenancies which are compatible with the purpose of the housing, the needs of individual households, the sustainability of the community and the efficient use of their housing stock”.

While welcoming much of the policy, which was agreed at a council cabinet meeting last week, Thurrock’s Tory group is disappointed the policy does not include fixed-term tenancies.

Conservative leader Phil Anderson said this is unfair on people whose circumstances change over time.

He said: “Family and work circumstances can change a lot in as little as five years, and residents have real concerns that some people get to the front of the queue based on a particular need, but then get to keep the house long after the need has gone.

“We need tenancies that reflect the changing nature of modern life, that offer security and certainty at times of difficulty, but that equally are fair on the next generation of people needing homes.

“There is much good news in this new policy, it’s just a shame the news is good but not great.”

But Cllr Morris-Cook replied: “We are not going to have fixed-term tenancies for our social housing, but we are not suggesting fixed-term tenancies should not be used in any circumstances.

“The strategic tenancy agreement allows them for our partner organisations in some circumstances.

“I am concerned the adoption of fixed-term tenancies would foster feelings of insecurity for those people affected and would do nothing to support the council’s aim of creating sustainable communities.

“It would also lead to much-increased administration and that, of course would mean extra costs for all tenants.”