In Swindon’s consultation on this year’s rent increase Swindon Tenants Campaign proposed a rent freeze, which was one of the four options put forward. However, we soon discovered that Swindon Council’s lead member for housing was proposing a maximum rent increase for Swindon tenants for 2013/14 ・ RPI + 0.5% plus 2 a week (an average increase of 4.8%). Faced with the threat of an above inflation increase we thought it best to try stop such a large increase. So, together with other tenants on the Housing Advisory Forum we proposed that the Forum call on the Council to increase rent by no more than RPI (Retail Price Index) of 2.6%. The Forum, an ‘advisory’ body, agreed this. However, the Lead Member was still pressing for an above inflation increase, pushing through the Council Cabinet, a slightly amended proposal of 4.4%.
Swindon Tenants Campaign group wrote a letter to all Councillors calling on them to oppose an above inflation increase and at least to limit it to RPI.
Prior to the Full Council meeting the Labour group put in an amendment for an RPI increase. To the surprise of most people, just before the meeting the Lead Member approached Labour, and the Lead Member ended up moving an amendment, seconded by Labour, for an increase of RPI.
On the night of the Council meeting a Tory Councillor was absent and if the 4.4% had been pressed then they might have lost the vote (they have a majority of just one). Another vote was apparently tied and passed on the casting vote of the Mayor. Another factor may well have been unease at the contrast between an above inflation rent increase, described by Council leader Rod Bluh as a “modest” increase, and the second year of a Council Tax freeze.
Whatever the reason/s for the change of position, tenants have been spared a 4.4% increase which would have meant, over the past 3 years, that we had suffered an increase of nearly 20% in our rent. The 4.4% was not a negotiating ploy since the programme for works for 2013/14 was drawn up on the basis of this above inflation increase. It was only withdrawn literally at the eleventh hour.