Rent increases halved for Welwyn Hatfield council tenants
RENT increases for council tenants will be halved – but the borough's politicians are still furious at the Government for announcing the cuts at the last minute. At a hastily-called meeting of Welwyn Hatfield Council last night (Tuesday), a new rent incre
RENT increases for council tenants will be halved - but the borough's politicians are still furious at the Government for announcing the cuts at the last minute.
At a hastily-called meeting of Welwyn Hatfield Council last night (Tuesday), a new rent increase of 3.37 per cent was approved.
The move follows an announcement earlier this month by housing minister Margaret Beckett that funding would be made available to help councils cut rent increases by half.
Although the move was welcomed by all, uncertainty surrounds exactly how and when the reductions will be implemented - and how much it will cost the council to inform tenants of the changes.
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Last week, council leader John Dean told the WHT it could cost as much as �50,000 to re-send billing information to tenants - a figure Labour group leader Margaret Birleson called "misleading".
Speaking at last night's meeting, she said: "If there really was any possibility of this costing such a sum, then I have every confidence the officers would have insisted on making sure this fact was highlighted."
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Cllr Dean said that was the figure given to him by officers as news of the reduction broke.
Lib Dem group leader Tony Skottowe demanded all additional expenditure be met by the Government, and criticised Labour for putting rents up in the first place.
"While welcoming the reduction in rate of increase in council rents, this council deplores any increase in rent given the Government's determination to enforce a stealth tax on a group of people most of whom are not well off," Cllr Skottowe said.
But Labour deputy leader Stephen Roberts claimed there were "good socialist reasons" for increasing rents.
"The money is being used to improve houses around the country. I know it's late, but the Government has acted in a very sensible manner," he said.
Councillor John Mansfield, however, did not mince his words.
"This is a second-rate government," the deputy council leader said. "If we didn't know better we'd have thought they'd been dragged off the streets.
"They're a useless, moribund, backwards bunch of sleazy creeps."
The council had originally agreed a rise of 6.7 per cent back in January, and billing information has already been sent to the 9,000 Welwyn Hatfield council tenants.