Council housing tenants: Soft targets for an ailing Conservative administration

February 15, 2013 12:05 PM
Council housing tenants are suffering at Tory hands

Council housing tenants are suffering at Tory hands

Cllr Vicky Davies, Liberal Democrat Housing Lead, asked the Conservative administration whether the housing stock for Brentwood was safe in their hands at Tuesday's budget setting meeting but, unsurprisingly, failed to get a reassuring answer.

Recently, a decision was made by the administration to follow the complex Housing Localism bill and housing financing formula which has diminished the principle of subsidised council housing in this Borough.

The ongoing alignment of council rents to 80% of the private sector rents flies in the face of good quality rented housing in the council's management and it looks like Brentwood Council will be playing catch up with the private sector year on year. Cllr Davies said, on the night:

"I cannot support the rent setting and business plan tonight because I believe your business plan is flawed and tenants are becoming the soft targets and being victimised."

Cllr Davies objections were based on the following factors:

  • The Government "re-invigoration" of the Right to Buy will further reduce our already depleted housing stock. The projected sales will leave Brentwood Borough Council with only £510.000 to reinvest in some housing re-provision - not like for like - and yet still requiring borrowing of a further £2 million with debt repayment implications. .
  • The stringent Welfare Reform changes are to have a draconian effect on many households and that is indicated by the need to increase the council's debt provision levels by 120%
  • This linked with rent rises ,way above inflation, will push many families onto housing benefit for the first time and where the housing benefit falls short of the rent rises others will be pushed into poverty.
  • The hardship fund is supposedly there to assist in cases of deprivation but offering loans to those in financial distress will only increase their debt levels compounding already intolerable situations.

The £74,000 deficit in year one could be sustained if borrowing levels are reduced for housing reprovision by use of interest accrued or monies from the New Homes Grant of £462,000 received by this council in 2012 and currently sitting in the general fund.

Further saving could be found by lessening the increase in the Talkback grant from the proposed £15 to £50 this year.

Cllr Davies concluded:

"The matter of most concern is whether the Brentwood housing stock is safe in Tory hands when in their report it says "During 2013/14 we will carry out an evaluation of future options for the management of our stock in order to decide on the best outcomes on the future delivery of housing services for Brentwood residents" and despite asking this at the meeting, I am still awaiting a response to that question."

Just another example of the Conservatives putting headlines ahead of the needs of residents.