A row has broken out among Bristol’s Labour councillors over the Reverend Rees’s efforts to freeze council rents this year. The result is that crucial budget papers for the Housing Revenue Account were pulled from a Cabinet meeting at the last minute this week. Could a WAFER THIN voting majority at the Council House mean that the Reverend finally has to take some notice of his long-suffering backbenchers rather the unelected City Office business wankers and evangelicals he usually surrounds himself with?
The Reverend, having already made a song and dance in the local press about his generosity in freezing rents to help the poor, has been left high and dry by these backbenchers. The row directly pitches the LONG TERM VIABILITY of our council housing stock against short term electoral needs. The Reverend and his supporters are keen to push through this freeze believing it will ATTRACT VOTES when elections finally happen.
Another section of his party is more concerned that the freeze will create a HOLE in the Housing Revenue Account and will affect the council’s ability to build new homes; renovate old homes and meet their targets to retrofit homes to meet climate change targets. The cost of retrofitting, alone, is conservatively estimated at £0.5 BILLION
The £1.8m cost of a freeze for this year reduces the council’s ability to borrow to meet their housing commitments in the future. LESS rental income means LESS ability to borrow money. We’re told that this £1.8m actually amounts to over £50 MILLION less to spend on our council housing over the next 30 years.
There is also evidence from around the country that other authorities that have not raised enough money through rents have been forced to PRIVATISE their housing stock or seek out private ‘partnerships’ to support building and renovation plans.
As well as an effort to hoover up votes with POPULIST PLOYS, is the Reverend also trying to further lever open the door for a CORPORATE ASSAULT on our council housing through his mysterious City Leap public-private partnership programme that’s been eyeing up our city’s council housing assets?
Watch this space.