At the rent setting meeting of Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) on 28.1.2015, an average council property rent increase of 2.18% (or £2.15 a week) was agreed unanimously to come into effect from 6.4.2015. This is effectively agreeing the 2015/2016 Housing Revenue Account (HRA).
Speaking at the meeting, the Leader of the Opposition, Liberal Democrat Robin Parker, said that the reasons for supporting the increase are:
- The annual rate of inflation is now 0.5% (CPI) or 1.6% (RPI). A small increase in rents is therefore reasonable. In recent years, the Liberal Democrats had voted against the large rent rises proposed by the Labour council, which were also supported by the Tories, because inflation had been higher and large rises put too much pressure on squeezed family budgets. Rent rises imposed by SBC, supported by Labour and Tories, and opposed only by the Liberal Democrats, have been:
Speaking previously at those meetings, Robin Parker had correctly predicted that the inflation rate would fall substantially, which has now happened, and thus a small rise was appropriate.
- The rise was necessary to maintain the SBC 30 year business plan for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and in particular for the HRA to support some new council home building. Both Conservative and Labour governments, since 1979, had not allowed any new council house building to take place. In the last two years, promoted by the Liberal Democrats in government, the Coalition government have at last allowed some new council dwellings to be provided. In Stevenage, schemes are now underway at Wedgewood Way, Hertford Road and Archer Road. There is a long term plan for about 1,000 new council homes.
“There is of course a lot further to go” said Robin Parker “but at last after 30 years people on the waiting list are seeing new council homes for rent, being built in Stevenage. Not supporting this small increase in rents would have put further progress on new council homes at risk.”
The HRA Budget was fully scrutinised by the Leader’s Services Priority Group (LSPG) in Autumn 2014, of which Robin Parker is a member.