This is a letter published in today’s Evening Advertiser
“WE must support our council tenants” wrote Michael Wills in his column in the Advertiser. Like other tenants I will be pleased if the rent increase we were expecting this year was reduced by half. However, if Mr Wills really wants to support council tenants in Swindon he might care to support the demand that the council is able to keep all the income from tenants’ rent instead of having to apply for a grant. Does Mr Wills support the government’s negative subsidy to the town of £9m a year? If Swindon was able to keep all the rent it collects then there would be no pressure to transfer us to a housing association.
So far as rent levels are concerned the government imposes on councils a rent system which is designed to equalise rents for council and housing association tenants. What this means in practise is driving up council tenant rents since historically housing association rents have been 20 per cent higher. So, if the government continues with this formula then Swindon council tenants will face a rise in rent of 60 per cent over the next 10 years. Does Mr Wills think this is fair?
The government has not only discriminated against council tenants since it came to office. It set out to end council housing, setting a figure of 200,000 houses a year to be transferred to housing associations or other private companies. In the words of Mr Wills’ fellow Labour MP Austin Mitchell, the government has conducted “a war against council tenants”. It has done everything it can to pressure tenants into accepting transfer, even wiping off housing debt, so long as they vote the right way. Only the resistance of tenants to this blackmail has prevented the government wiping out council housing.
Isn’t it time for Mr Wills’ government to stop this war against council tenants and start supporting them?