Swindon tenants will have an extra £1.66 to spend a week after council U-turn

Swindon Advertiser: Councillor Russell Holland Councillor Russell Holland

TENANTS will have more money in their pockets after Swindon Council’s plans for an above-inflation increase in rents were scrapped in a last-minute U-turn.

The Conservative administration had proposed to increase rents from April by the RPI (Retail Price Index) measure of inflation, plus 0.5 per cent plus a maximum of £2, which would have increased average rents to £77.82 a week – a rise of 4.8 per cent.

However, following opposition from tenant groups and the Labour group, the administration agreed just before last week’s budget meeting to propose to peg the rise at RPI in 2013/14 – a plan that was passed by the full council.

This means the average weekly increase per household will be £1.93 instead of £3.59, giving residents an extra £1.66 a week to spend in a year when welfare cuts start to bite.

However, the council will have about £900,000 less cash than it would have had to improve homes.

Coun Russell Holland, cabinet member for One Swindon, Localities and housing, said he changed the proposal at a late stage because a proposed Labour motion to peg rents at RPI was only shared with him on the day – and his main priority was to achieve a consensus as there are council houses in each ward.

He said: “The key message from my speech is that I want to do my best for tenants. There’s good arguments for or against the rent increase but I think it’s best for tenants that we have a unified decision.

“There are 57 councillors and there are tenants that live across the whole of Swindon, so if we can reach a decision upon which all 57 of us can agree, that’s best for tenants, because otherwise we have political arguments about rents.”

Coun Des Moffatt, Labour’s finance lead, said: “I would imagine tenants will breathe a sigh of relief. They would have been happier with no increase but I’m not sure that would have been the responsible thing to do.

“The responsible thing to do is think long-term and put through an increase that keeps the housing rents account strong and allows the council to continue repairs and renawals of existing housing stock, and is manageable for the tenants who have always to rely on their wages to pay their rents – or quite a few of them who are retired rely on quite small pensions.”

Derek Fry, a member of Swindon Tenants’ Voice, said: “It’s a good thing for tenants, I think. Right up to the council meeting we thought there was going to be an increase by RPI plus 0.5 per cent plus £2, so in this time of austerity I think it’s a very good thing for tenants that rents are being pegged at inflation.”

Martin Wicks, secretary of the Swindon Tenant Campaign group, said: “The problem is if they continued pushing rents up beyond the level of inflation, there could have been an increase in arrears. We were particularly annoyed at the proposal for a 4.8 per cent increase because this year, of all years, tenants are going to get harmed by the bedroom tax and minimum 20 per cent council tax.”

Comments (14)

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7:14pm Thu 28 Feb 13

Worked Hard says...

So.... the council are not raising rents on council properties which is most likely paid for with some kind of benefit????

Go figure !!
So.... the council are not raising rents on council properties which is most likely paid for with some kind of benefit???? Go figure !! Worked Hard

7:55pm Thu 28 Feb 13

MrAngry says...

The adver journo who wrote this has a strange sense of logic.

Tenants won't have an extra £1.66 a week in their pockets they will have £1.93 less.
The adver journo who wrote this has a strange sense of logic. Tenants won't have an extra £1.66 a week in their pockets they will have £1.93 less. MrAngry

8:57pm Thu 28 Feb 13

LordAshOfTheBrake says...

In other words, councillor Holland was going to be defeated in his proposal so to save face he agreed to a last minute motion from another party.....!

The very fact that it was a last minute proposal means it has not been properly costed, debated, discussed and so on.

Says it all really.....
In other words, councillor Holland was going to be defeated in his proposal so to save face he agreed to a last minute motion from another party.....! The very fact that it was a last minute proposal means it has not been properly costed, debated, discussed and so on. Says it all really..... LordAshOfTheBrake

10:18pm Thu 28 Feb 13

Russell Holland says...

Few points.

Rents are raising at the rate of inflation. So there is going to be an increase.

59% of tenants are on some form of housing benefit and for the majority of them the rent will be covered by a corresponding increase in housing benefit.

Ash - the Conservatives had a majority on the night so we could have voted through the original proposal. I took the view that a unanimous decision by all Councillors was in the best interests of tenants.

As part of the rent consultation the figures of an RPI increase or a higher increase had all been considered in detail, costed, discussed and debated with some tenants.

At full Council there was one amendment proposed by me which was seconded by Des Moffat. The only person who spoke on that agenda item was me.
Few points. Rents are raising at the rate of inflation. So there is going to be an increase. 59% of tenants are on some form of housing benefit and for the majority of them the rent will be covered by a corresponding increase in housing benefit. Ash - the Conservatives had a majority on the night so we could have voted through the original proposal. I took the view that a unanimous decision by all Councillors was in the best interests of tenants. As part of the rent consultation the figures of an RPI increase or a higher increase had all been considered in detail, costed, discussed and debated with some tenants. At full Council there was one amendment proposed by me which was seconded by Des Moffat. The only person who spoke on that agenda item was me. Russell Holland

7:47am Fri 1 Mar 13

LordAshOfTheBrake says...

Russell Holland wrote:
Few points.

Rents are raising at the rate of inflation. So there is going to be an increase.

59% of tenants are on some form of housing benefit and for the majority of them the rent will be covered by a corresponding increase in housing benefit.

Ash - the Conservatives had a majority on the night so we could have voted through the original proposal. I took the view that a unanimous decision by all Councillors was in the best interests of tenants.

As part of the rent consultation the figures of an RPI increase or a higher increase had all been considered in detail, costed, discussed and debated with some tenants.

At full Council there was one amendment proposed by me which was seconded by Des Moffat. The only person who spoke on that agenda item was me.
The only way you would get a unanimous decision would be in doing what Labour and Tenant groups wanted as there are a number of very stubbon councillors.

You are quoted in the article as saying "Coun Russell Holland, cabinet member for One Swindon, Localities and housing, said he changed the proposal at a late stage because a proposed Labour motion to peg rents at RPI was only shared with him on the day" which clearly says it was a labour motion that drove the change.


What was the amendment you proposed?
[quote][p][bold]Russell Holland[/bold] wrote: Few points. Rents are raising at the rate of inflation. So there is going to be an increase. 59% of tenants are on some form of housing benefit and for the majority of them the rent will be covered by a corresponding increase in housing benefit. Ash - the Conservatives had a majority on the night so we could have voted through the original proposal. I took the view that a unanimous decision by all Councillors was in the best interests of tenants. As part of the rent consultation the figures of an RPI increase or a higher increase had all been considered in detail, costed, discussed and debated with some tenants. At full Council there was one amendment proposed by me which was seconded by Des Moffat. The only person who spoke on that agenda item was me.[/p][/quote]The only way you would get a unanimous decision would be in doing what Labour and Tenant groups wanted as there are a number of very stubbon councillors. You are quoted in the article as saying "Coun Russell Holland, cabinet member for One Swindon, Localities and housing, said he changed the proposal at a late stage because a proposed Labour motion to peg rents at RPI was only shared with him on the day" which clearly says it was a labour motion that drove the change. What was the amendment you proposed? LordAshOfTheBrake

8:25am Fri 1 Mar 13

house on the hill says...

Lord Ash, you are quite correct. Holland did know well in advance, but was scared that labour would vote him down so he did a u turn and then as it turned out not many labour councilors turned up so it would have gone through but by then too late to make yet another u turn.

the other things to remember are that as a barrister Holland is about as far removed from the welfare state as you can get so his understanding will be limited to what he has read or been told rather than any actual reality check of what goes on. Also at his tender age he doesnt have an awful lot of life experience to draw on. If he really wants to relate to tenants then either live like one for 6 months or work as a housing officer and see for himself not only the atitudes of so many of the tenants, but also the complacency, innefciency and waste within the council department and how much they get ripped off by SCS.

On the tenants side, firstly they need to learn basic economics. the less rent you pay the less there is to spend on the service you receive. your rents are around half that of the private sector so it stands to reason the service will be considerably less than private tenants receive. Also they voted to take on the increased debt so again, there is less money to spend on them.
the problem that soo many have is an unrealistic expectation of what they should receive . why should someone on tax payer funded benefit have the luxury of an extra room even igoring the tens of thousands of people waiting for housing, it is just arrogant and selfish. I would love an extra bedroom but having worked every day since I left school, I still cant afford one. I am sure there are thousands in Swindon who would not only love an extra bedroom but also to rent a 3 bed house at £75 a week! Stop moaning and be grateful you live in a country that has a welfare state as most dont and wake up to the realities of economics not just of social housing but of the country as a whole.
Lord Ash, you are quite correct. Holland did know well in advance, but was scared that labour would vote him down so he did a u turn and then as it turned out not many labour councilors turned up so it would have gone through but by then too late to make yet another u turn. the other things to remember are that as a barrister Holland is about as far removed from the welfare state as you can get so his understanding will be limited to what he has read or been told rather than any actual reality check of what goes on. Also at his tender age he doesnt have an awful lot of life experience to draw on. If he really wants to relate to tenants then either live like one for 6 months or work as a housing officer and see for himself not only the atitudes of so many of the tenants, but also the complacency, innefciency and waste within the council department and how much they get ripped off by SCS. On the tenants side, firstly they need to learn basic economics. the less rent you pay the less there is to spend on the service you receive. your rents are around half that of the private sector so it stands to reason the service will be considerably less than private tenants receive. Also they voted to take on the increased debt so again, there is less money to spend on them. the problem that soo many have is an unrealistic expectation of what they should receive . why should someone on tax payer funded benefit have the luxury of an extra room even igoring the tens of thousands of people waiting for housing, it is just arrogant and selfish. I would love an extra bedroom but having worked every day since I left school, I still cant afford one. I am sure there are thousands in Swindon who would not only love an extra bedroom but also to rent a 3 bed house at £75 a week! Stop moaning and be grateful you live in a country that has a welfare state as most dont and wake up to the realities of economics not just of social housing but of the country as a whole. house on the hill

8:31am Fri 1 Mar 13

Tim Newroman says...

Welcome to the real world.
Welcome to the real world. Tim Newroman

8:56am Fri 1 Mar 13

Scattytaz says...

average rents to £77.82 a week

Wow I wish that was true my rent is £85.79 pw on a 2 bed house...
average rents to £77.82 a week Wow I wish that was true my rent is £85.79 pw on a 2 bed house... Scattytaz

9:48am Fri 1 Mar 13

Russell Holland says...

Ash - the amendment was to have a rent increase at RPI.

There had been a Housing Advisory Forum meeting, it was on the Cabinet and Scrutiny agendas and I did not have any indication that Labour were wishing to propose an RPI increase. If you want to say it was Labour who drove the change that is your view. As I said on the night there are 57 Councillors and just because the Conservatives have a majority that does not make one opinion right and another wrong. In the case of rents there are equally good arguments for the different levels of rent increases and I felt it was best to have a unanimous decision by all Councillors rather than have rent become a party political issue. If we had gone ahead with the original proposal tenants would have paid more rent but there would have been an additional £900k to spend. That was the nature of the trade off.

House - I was never worried about Labour voting down the proposal. The Conservatives have an overall majority so we could have stuck with the original proposal.

Your assumptions about me and about tenants don't really bother me. The vast majority of tenants want to work, keep their homes nice, support their family and give to the community around them. Yes there are social problems on the estates but these often operate side by side a great community spirit. I would agree with you that Council house rents are a very good deal at between 50-60% of market rents.

I interact with tenants almost every day through the facebook page and attend as many meetings as I can. Our surveys about home improvements and repairs show very positive feedback, where there are complaints they are quickly resolved and while not everything is perfect and there is not room for complacency, overall I feel we do a very good job for tenants.
Ash - the amendment was to have a rent increase at RPI. There had been a Housing Advisory Forum meeting, it was on the Cabinet and Scrutiny agendas and I did not have any indication that Labour were wishing to propose an RPI increase. If you want to say it was Labour who drove the change that is your view. As I said on the night there are 57 Councillors and just because the Conservatives have a majority that does not make one opinion right and another wrong. In the case of rents there are equally good arguments for the different levels of rent increases and I felt it was best to have a unanimous decision by all Councillors rather than have rent become a party political issue. If we had gone ahead with the original proposal tenants would have paid more rent but there would have been an additional £900k to spend. That was the nature of the trade off. House - I was never worried about Labour voting down the proposal. The Conservatives have an overall majority so we could have stuck with the original proposal. Your assumptions about me and about tenants don't really bother me. The vast majority of tenants want to work, keep their homes nice, support their family and give to the community around them. Yes there are social problems on the estates but these often operate side by side a great community spirit. I would agree with you that Council house rents are a very good deal at between 50-60% of market rents. I interact with tenants almost every day through the facebook page and attend as many meetings as I can. Our surveys about home improvements and repairs show very positive feedback, where there are complaints they are quickly resolved and while not everything is perfect and there is not room for complacency, overall I feel we do a very good job for tenants. Russell Holland

10:05am Fri 1 Mar 13

RichardR1 says...

2 Bed House in private sector £100+ per week. So £78 or even £86 is hardly draconian., and with 56% rate and tax payer funded ???
2 Bed House in private sector £100+ per week. So £78 or even £86 is hardly draconian., and with 56% rate and tax payer funded ??? RichardR1

1:06pm Fri 1 Mar 13

LordAshOfTheBrake says...

@Russell Holland

The amendment was changing the increase from what to RPI?

Didn't the tenants get to vote on a consultation over rent increases a couple of months back. I seem to recall exchanging messages with you; however I couldn't find the article.

The result of the consultation was what?


I've seen some of the comments on the facebook page and quite frankly some people on there have a completely unrealistic expectation of entitlement and service.
@Russell Holland The amendment was changing the increase from what to RPI? Didn't the tenants get to vote on a consultation over rent increases a couple of months back. I seem to recall exchanging messages with you; however I couldn't find the article. The result of the consultation was what? I've seen some of the comments on the facebook page and quite frankly some people on there have a completely unrealistic expectation of entitlement and service. LordAshOfTheBrake

1:18pm Fri 1 Mar 13

house on the hill says...

"RichardR1 says...
10:05am Fri 1 Mar 13

2 Bed House in private sector £100+ per week. So £78 or even £86 is hardly draconian., and with 56% rate and tax payer funded ???"""

maybe where you now live but around here its £150 a week so it is a very good deal!
"RichardR1 says... 10:05am Fri 1 Mar 13 2 Bed House in private sector £100+ per week. So £78 or even £86 is hardly draconian., and with 56% rate and tax payer funded ???""" maybe where you now live but around here its £150 a week so it is a very good deal! house on the hill

1:50pm Fri 1 Mar 13

house on the hill says...

""Russell Holland says...
9:48am Fri 1 Mar 13

Your assumptions about me and about tenants don't really bother me"""

Exactly my point as they should. You cant be an effective councillor if you dont actually understand the evironment you work in, I am sure you have learned loads on your facebook page! The problem with the council tenants groups is they tend to be the same people again and again who are not only not reperesentative of tenants as a whole, but are more interested in themsleves than what is best for council tenants as a whole or Swindon in general which is why no real expansion gets done. As it is mainly taxpayers money that funds their homes why dont the taxpayer have a say in how it is funded and run too? It just seems crazy that they expect others to no only provide their home and livelihood but that they also want a say on how its run too.

and again agree with Lord Ash and reiterate my comment about unrealistic expectations of tenants and disagree that most want to work. what they actually want is to work but keep the subsidised cheap rent of staying in a council house when they no longer require it or would actually qualify if they were applying for it now. The whole model is flawed and if it isnt changed soon, it will collapse and you need to teach people to be responsible for themsleves instead of constantly expecting others to pick up the tab.

As for a good service, not sure where you got that from as most "surveys" have a less than 10% response so you actually have no real idea of how they think although the fact they cant be bothered to respond or turn up to meetings should asnwer thatt one for you.
""Russell Holland says... 9:48am Fri 1 Mar 13 Your assumptions about me and about tenants don't really bother me""" Exactly my point as they should. You cant be an effective councillor if you dont actually understand the evironment you work in, I am sure you have learned loads on your facebook page! The problem with the council tenants groups is they tend to be the same people again and again who are not only not reperesentative of tenants as a whole, but are more interested in themsleves than what is best for council tenants as a whole or Swindon in general which is why no real expansion gets done. As it is mainly taxpayers money that funds their homes why dont the taxpayer have a say in how it is funded and run too? It just seems crazy that they expect others to no only provide their home and livelihood but that they also want a say on how its run too. and again agree with Lord Ash and reiterate my comment about unrealistic expectations of tenants and disagree that most want to work. what they actually want is to work but keep the subsidised cheap rent of staying in a council house when they no longer require it or would actually qualify if they were applying for it now. The whole model is flawed and if it isnt changed soon, it will collapse and you need to teach people to be responsible for themsleves instead of constantly expecting others to pick up the tab. As for a good service, not sure where you got that from as most "surveys" have a less than 10% response so you actually have no real idea of how they think although the fact they cant be bothered to respond or turn up to meetings should asnwer thatt one for you. house on the hill

7:03pm Sat 2 Mar 13

RichardR1 says...

House I was being generous to council tenants.
House I was being generous to council tenants. RichardR1

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