Monday, 23 February 2009

Council Tax does not equal Rent Increase

Had a good swap of emails with an opposition member yesterday, regarding his proposal to reduce cyclical maintenance in the budget, in order to peg the increase in social housing rent, to be the same percentage as the proposed council tax increase.

At first glance, the principle of keeping the rent as low as possible drew my interest, and I'm always one to investigate such a possibility, whether it comes from a Tory colleague, or the opposition. However, on further detials, and consideration, I believe that the proposal confuses good aspirations, with a slight lack of medium-to-long term thinking, and, a simplistic view of percentages.

The budget for cyclical maintenance has been pretty low in recent years, and both main parties in Waverley held the same desire to increase this, but both have operated under the same horrendous constraints of the negative housing subsidy. However, even in this envrionment, it is myopic to think that saving money now on maintenace, will not translate into greater costs in the long-term.

Therefore, deciding to increase this maintenance budget by 60% for 2009/10 is a considered, and responsible step. A proposal to reduce it in order to align two percentages, which don't in reality relate, may well be more political posturing than community compassion.

In the words of a fellow councillor:

Rent is a charge for the right to occupy a dwelling and for it to be maintained by the landlord (in contrast to homeowners who meet their own maintenance costs as well as paying mortgage charges in most cases) while Council Tax is charged for the services provided to all occupiers, irrespective of the nature of their tenure.

As landlords it is imperative that we are honest and accurate about our budget needs, and certainly must do our very best to maintain our housing stock to as good a standard as possible. This year's increase of 60% represents that judgment, and adjusting that to match council tax as a percentage, and thus make a good headline, is not good leadership.

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