Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Attempt to clear up confusion on council rent increases not entirely successful

Pete Firmin
Speaking to Brent Executive last night, Pete Firmin, secretary of Brent TUC, a South Kilburn resident and Labour Party member, lambasted the Council's stance on council rent increases.  He said that the annual above inflation increases, which in his case would mean an increase of 40% over 5 years, should be unacceptable to a Labour Council.

The plans were included in the Housing Strategy officers' report which Firmin described as impenetrable. Several people had tried to make sense of it, including Brent Central potential Labour candidate Kingsley Abrams, and had been unable to say with absolute certainty what was proposed. His local Kilburn councillors had said they knew nothing about it and when he asked Cllr Margaret McLennan and Cllr Michael Pavey, both members of the Executive what it meant, they confirmed rent rises over five years to 80% of market rents.

He said that the Council would be adding to the financial problems of people already hit by benefit cuts, council tax benefit changes and higher food and energy prices. He asked why tenants were being forced to fund new build through the rent increases and contrasted that with the freezing of the Council Tax.

Firmin said that this was not something the Council had to do and he circulated information from Islington Council  on its approach.

Muhammed Butt defended the Council's approach saying that new housing was imperative. Cllr  Margaret McLennan, lead member for housing, said that the policy referred to social rent and not market rents (a search of the report reveals that the only mention of social rent is one about the possible national fixing of these).  She said that the Council had not yet decided on their definition of an affordable social rent.  She said that that the planned new build was good news ands that the plans had receved a high level of endorsement.The priority was to house people on the waiting list.

Andy Donald, head of Regeneration and Major Project, said the new build would go straight to an 'affordable' rent of between 60% and 80% of market rent. This was the government's definition and the Council would have to charge that to use a government grant. If new build was at an 'affordable rent' it would help fund the refurbishment of existing stock. The actual rent rises would be fixed in February 2013 and would be roughly 4% higher in 2014-15.

Cllr Pavey waded in to say that Pete Firmin should have discussed this earlier, the Islington document was interesting but why hadn't Pete circulated it beforehand (and anyway they had more land available than Brent) and then ended with what is fast becoming his mantra: this is not perfect but the best we can do in difficult times.

Many of us left not entirely clear on what was proposed and I suspect that was also true of the Executive members who voted to approve the strategy.


Anonymous said...

Seriously? Am I reading this correctly? The proposal was not to increase rents by 100% as some had misunderstood, but Pavey and MacLennan had also misunderstood and were prepared to justify and vote for an increase of this level? Someone needs to draw these two a map indicating positions of elbows and posteriors. As for Pavey berating a member of the public for not telling him what Islington's policy - surely it's his job to find out before voting on it, not the public's responsibility to tell him. What exactly is he being paid for?

Anonymous said...

An old phrase springs to mind "the higher a monkey climbs, the more of its arse you see".

Anonymous said...

'The more I see of this great world, the more it seems a farce,
The higher the monkey climbs the tree, the more it shows its .............ability?'

Pete Firmin said...

Some additional thoughts:

In an attempt to blame me and opponents for their confusion, Councillor McLennan said I should have checked out the policy before calling a protest, and Councillor Pavey said I waited until Saturday to ask him about the policy.

Neither of these statements have any basis in fact. Having heard last Wednesday that Council policy was unclear, but that it might contain a doubling of rents, I asked all 3 Kilburn Councillors for clarification at a meeting on Thursday evening - none could give any. I then emailed Councillor Pavey at 6.25 on Friday morning and received a reply at 9.18. It was only after this response, in which he justified such an increase, that I applied to speak at the Executive meeting and a protest was called.

Maybe if Council documents were made a little clearer we could all be more aware of what is going on.

When Councillor McLennan claims that tenants support her rent policy, she neatly avoids mentioning that, in fact, their own documents show that they consulted 14,000 people, 500 replied and half of those supported the policy. A ringing endorsement by les than 2%! Added to which, I understand leaseholders were consulted about rent policy.

Adding to the confusion, although the documents to the Executive refer to `new build' being where rents would immediately move to the "affordable" level, some Councillors talk of `new tenants' and Councillor Butt added to the confusion by referring to rents "in regeneration areas" moving to 80% of market rents. Really? Including those not in new build?

Pete Firmin said...

A secondary point - whenever Councillors say how wonderful regeneration in South Kilburn is, as Councillor Butt did on this occasion, I want to kidnap them and stand them next to the building site for a (week)day, so they can actually experience what regeneration means for those of us living in the middle of it.

trevor said...

Regeneration out the mouth of Politicians and Cllrs is comparable to the slogan New Labour used back in 1997 about things can only get better under their Leadership.
We all know now that slogan was worthless simply cause action speaks louder than words and the actions of the Labour government was far from positive and caused more problems than solve Them.
The estate now owned by Metropolitan housing was labelled as a regeneration but as usual the actions spoke louder and I can assure you Pete that the same old flaws are here.
for example on the old estate The noise that came from individual flats made living on chalkhill estate a never ending nightmare and a cause of regular torment as well as a cause for regular arguments between neighbors.
simply cause the sound proofing Material was clearly insufficient and so when people would do everyday things Like push a Chair across un carpeted floors it made a irritating noise which for many was hard to bear (me included ; 0 (
and so many a Time I had to knock on my neighbor's Door and make them aware that the noise coming from their flat was disturbing me and causing me much torment and frustration.
sadly that tended to fall on deaf ears and so the noise torment and frustration continued.
Now when the council decided it was Time to so call regenerate Chalk Hill Estate, They used the word Regenerate and I have since Looked up what That means?
and one definition is as follows "forming again (especially with improvements or removal of defects.
Now I Have chosen to focus on the part about removal of defects.
one of the major problems on the old Chalk hill estate was the problem with noise.
and that was due to insufficient amounts of sound proofing material between the walls and falls etc.
now since the word Regeneration was used by the council, it is only natural to expect that the flaws of the old estate would be removed once the new estate was built right?
well sadly those flaws were replaced because these flats were once again built with insufficient amounts of sound proofing material and so this estate has become like a Chalk hill part Two but on a smaller scale.
The rooms are smaller, but the noise problem remains.
Like you for good reason I have Little Faith in the words of Cllr Butt and for good reason.