Stevenage LibbyThere was unanimous support for the average 5.1% rent increase for Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) homes at the full council meeting on 23.1.2013 and no discussion at the meeting about it. Unlike last year, the two Liberal Democrat councillors, Robin Parker and Graham Snell, reluctantly agreed to support the proposal.

Speaking later, Liberal Democrat group leader explained: “A year ago, the majority Labour group voted through a 6.8% rise in rents. We voted against this because a near 7% rise, coming on top of an annual inflation rate at the time of 5.6%, was simply too much for the council to expect residents to find at a time of economic slowdown. I refused then to support any increase over 5%.”

“At that time, I said that :

‘….. I believe that inflation at September 2012 will be less than the 5.6% that it was in September 2011, and that therefore a rise may be slightly more affordable next year.’

–          and so it has proved. Inflation as at September 2012 was 3.1%. Whilst any rent increase is obviously not welcome, reality requires there to be an increase, and it would have been better to spread the increase over two years, and apply some of it at a time of lower inflation, and thus have avoided the huge increase last year, which we opposed for that reason.”

The rents are increased by an amount each year based on a formula from the last Labour government, to which SBC still sticks and, under that formula, the increase is based on the inflation rate at the previous September each year.

“Under new rules introduced by the Coalition Government, if SBC is able to generate a surplus on its Housing Revenue Account, it will now be possible for SBC once again to build some council houses. This was not allowed under either Labour or Conservative governments since the early 1980s, and is a very welcome change introduced by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats working together and trying to increase the supply of affordable rented housing” concluded Robin Parker.