|Wandsworth Council Accused of Manipulating Rents|
Opposition claim long term trend of smaller increases in election years
Wandsworth Council are being accused of managing rent increases for political purposes after the Labour opposition group published research which they claim shows a pattern of lower rent increases in election year.
The research was commissioned by Cllr. Simon Hogg and is published on his blog. He claims that the data shows a long term pattern of Wandsworth Council cutting rents or increasing them less than Government guidelines in an election year and then subsequently ramping them up sharply.
He says the data show that Wandsworth sets rents at less than half the government guideline in the year before local elections and more than double the guideline in the first year after local elections. The year before an election Wandsworth charges 44% of the government’s suggested guideline rent, on average; but the year after each election rents leap by 246% of the guideline.
Wandsworth council already charges the highest rents in Britain and by the end of this year benefit cuts will seriously affect many families in social housing.
The figures can be revealed after a political row in the most recent Town Hall Housing Committee. At the January 23 meeting, Labour councillor Tony Belton produced a list of rent increases for the past 20 years and stated that rents were clearly set to match political priorities, not financial ones.
Cllr. Hogg says that the analysis is based on the council’s own figures dating back to 1991/2, and that the analyst – who works for a blue-chip company and is professionally qualified – looked at the relationship between the rents recommended by the government and the rents set by Wandsworth.
Cllr. Hogg pointed out that the big swings in rent charges could make it difficult for some of the most deprived families in the borough to manage their household budgets. 2010′s pre-election rent cut on average put £57 back in tenants’ pockets – but they then had to fork out an extra £407 for the following year’s increase plus an extra £433 this year.
He said, " Wandsworth Council should remove any chance to play politics with council housing by agreeing a long-term plan to charge residents stable affordable rents."
A council spokesman said, " Changes to rent are dictated solely by financial factors – such as whether additional funding needs to be generated to pay for costly improvements to the council’s housing stock or to cover an expensive maintenance project. Such factors obviously change each year.
"In 2010/2011 we were able to announce a negative rent increase due to Government rent restructuring policies. The following year rent increased a fraction more than the Government’s guideline due to additional financial pressures.
"In 2006/2007, changes to rent in the borough matched the Government’s guideline recommendation whereas in 2002/2003 the council’s actual rent increase was set at an average £1 per week below the Governments guideline increase due to an increase in nationally set subsidy allowances for management and maintenance of the retained housing stock."
History of Wandsworth Rent Increases
SOURCE: WANDSWORTH COUNCIL
February 20, 2013