SDC approves lowest rent rise in county for tenants
STROUD District Council approved the lowest rent rise in the county for its social housing tenants following a heated debate at Ebley Mill on Thursday, January 24.
The rainbow alliance of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party members voted to support a rise of 2.83 per cent for council house tenants in 2013/14 despite criticism from the Tory benches.
Conservative councillors had called for a bigger increase - backing an amendment put down by their leader Keith Pearson (Con, Upton St Leonards) which proposed a 3.39 per cent rise - before opting to abstain from the vote.
Presenting details of the policy to council, SDC's member for housing Mattie Ross (Lab, Stonehouse) said she was 'proud to announce the lowest rent rise in the area', adding that it was intended to help the district's 'most vulnerable and needy'.
Former Stroud MP David Drew (Lab, Paganhill) said it would provide relief to some of the poorest citizens in the Five Valleys who were 'facing grave difficulties' as a result of falling wages.
However, Tory councillor Rhiannon Wigzell (Amberley and Woodchester) accused the rainbow administration of a 'cynical investment in political capital', describing the low rise as a 'short-term favour'.
Cllr Pearson echoed his Conservative colleague's stance, saying the move was a 'political gesture' designed to make the Tories look 'greedy'.
Last year, under the previous Conservative administration, tenants saw their rents rise by 6.83 per cent, although this owed largely to a higher rate of inflation.
Conservative non-group member, Cllr Nigel Studdert-Kennedy (The Stanleys) said he supported the 3.39 per cent rise because the lower increase would result in a £4.3 million loss of revenue over 30 years.
"In terms of prudent financial management I do not think it is a good idea," he said.
But Cllr Dennis Andrewartha (Lib Dem, Cam West) said it was right to help tenants facing a 'financial burden' in tough economic times, while Cllr Steve Lydon (Lab, The Stanleys) said the low rent rise had to be seen in the context of 'government attacks throughout the system on people on benefits'.
Green Party leader Molly-Scott Cato (Valley) said it was 'extremely unsympathetic' to the poorest members of the district to support a higher rise than the one being proposed by the rainbow administration.