The ownership and management of council homes in Horsham has been transferred to a non-profit making company.

The newly-formed Saxon Weald Homes took over responsibility from Horsham Council this week for more than 4,600 former council houses and flats.

The transfer went ahead after 63 per cent of tenants backed the plan in a ballot earlier this year.

The council says the new management will bring a major injection of funds for repairs, modernisations and improvements, including modern kitchens, bathrooms and double glazing.

The transfer should also bring a five-year guarantee for tenants transferring from the council, protection of tenants' rights and a programme for building new homes for rent.

Saxon Weald Homes is a local, non-profit making company specifically set up for the transfer, with tenants and councillors forming two thirds of its board.

Vivien Lyth, chairman of the council's policy and resources committee, said: "The council has always believed that providing social housing for rent has been one of its most important services. We also believe that the council's tenants deserve the best homes that we can provide.

"However, we have had to recognise that Government regulations over many years mean that the council is very unlikely to have enough money either to modernise and improve its homes or to support the building of as much new social housing as will be needed in the district in years to come.

"That is why the council suggested transferring its housing to a new company that is locally based and locally controlled and also why so many tenants supported the transfer."

She said they were sad to see the responsibility for housing management pass from the council but, having worked with Saxon Weald Homes for the last six months, they were convinced their social housing and tenants were passing into safe hands.

She also believed the transfer would bring great benefits to existing tenants and to future generations.

As a Registered Social Landlord regulated by the Housing Corporation, Saxon Weald Homes will be able to raise the money needed to modernise and improve homes while guaranteeing rent increases of no more than inflation plus one per cent for each of the next five years.

Most of the council's housing staff have transferred to work for the new company.

The council will continue to be responsible for meeting the needs of homeless people and for maintaining waiting lists of people who want or need to live in social housing.

As a result of the transfer the council will also be able to support the building of at least 80 new social housing units each year for the foreseeable future.

Robin Charter, chairman of Saxon Weald Homes, said: "The transfer marks the culmination of a huge amount of work by a lot of people. However, the work does not stop here. All of us involved in Saxon Weald Homes know that we have a great deal to do to improve on the excellent service that we are inheriting from the council.

"We are determined to make sure that our tenants notice the difference and I would like to thank the council for its support in helping us get to the point where we are ready, willing and able to take over the housing."