Friday, 8 September 2017

Pre-emptive strike against Thurrock Council’s response to my article on the stealth rent increase




I haven’t heard back from Thurrock Council or Cllr Gledhill regarding my article savaging the statement issued by them defending the ‘service charges’ they intend to add to council tenant’s rent but I know they are going to use the “well, we don’t have the budget that we used to have” line.

This is a very true statement but let’s look at the evidence that Thurrock Council themselves posted on their website as a way of working out why they don’t have as big a budget as they used to.  Below I have included a screen grab of the funding document which is downloadable from the Thurrock Council website (https://www.thurrock.gov.uk/paying-your-council-tax/your-council-tax-bill-explained).




As you can see, the General Revenue Grant has decreased and will, according to the estimated forecasts on the table, continue to fall over the next couple of years; in fact it has been dropping consistently from 2012/13.  As stated in the document Revenue Grants are for the annual funding of services and while some must be spent on specific services, the rest supports the overall council budget.  The decrease in the General Revenue Grant would obviously put pressure on Tory-run Thurrock Council.  But we must look at where the Revenue Grants come from and the title of the above document gives us that information – it’s “funding from government”.  Given this piece of information, and bearing in mind that the current ‘government’ is also Tory-run, it seems that the current Tory administration is simply learning the truth that it tried to hide from people when it was in opposition that it’s difficult to pay for things when the Tory ‘government’ is insisting on slashing grants to local authorities in pursuit of their ideologically-motivated austerity agenda.

Are the council tenants of Thurrock cutting the level of funding from central government?  Of course not.

The Thurrock Tories wanted to increase council rents by 9%.  Who stopped them? 

Tory central ‘government’ who pledged to reduce council rents by 1% in a blatant attempt to buy the working class, council tenant vote.

Given this obstacle to their attempts to increase council rents, Thurrock Tories had to find another way to raise some extra cash so they came up with the idea of the ‘service charges’.  Original proposals would have added up to the 9% rent increase they wanted to institute in the first place but that was voted down by Labour and UKIP so new proposals were drawn up which brings us to the situation that Thurrock’s council tenants find themselves in now – an increase of between 5% and 7.6% in approximate terms.

However, given all this, we still have the Capital Grants to look at.  These are funding for one-off projects and investments.

According to the Capital Grants table, Highways and Environment is getting an estimated increased grant in 2017/18 of £9.796m (up from the £5.110m grant in 2016/17).

Now it is possible that the money has been earmarked for specific projects within that category, but as the “14 play parks, 50 hectares of green space, 13 hectares of footpaths, a further 30 hectares of hard surfaces and over 2,000 trees” that Cllr Gledhill referred to come under that category, one could suggest that Thurrock Council will have the money to cover it.

Given that those items are also already paid for by Council Tax revenues, one might argue that Cllr Gledhill and his administration don’t have a leg to stand on when trying to defend the ‘service charges’ argument.

Yes, the Capital Grant for Highways and Environment does drastically reduce in the following two years but they know who they can squarely point the finger at for that – their Parliamentary brethren.  Their council tenants have nothing to do with that decision (unless, of course, they help vote in a different administration at the national level).

And, for the Tory-voting members of Thurrock, you can’t keep blaming Labour for the financial mess the UK is in because the Tories have been in power for 7 years and have done little to sort out the problems in our economy.  All they’ve done is blame Labour and use the financial mess as an excuse to do what they would have done even if the UK was in better economic shape – cut services, slash budgets and attack the poor and disadvantaged.

My message to Tory voters – stop blaming Labour for your failures and lack of compassion!

Responses, mentions and debate on Thurrock Council’s stealth rent increase



As my regular reader will already know, I like to post any responses I get from letters, e-mails and ‘phone calls as well as posting screen grabs/scans of letters published in local media and any debate streams of which I am a participant.  So, for your delectation and edification, here’s a digest of my most recent responses, mentions and debate on the increase in council rents being instituted by the Tory-run Thurrock Council.

Please note:  Any spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, etc are reproduced exactly as sent to me or published (cut-and-paste is a wonderful time saver).  Letters are sent using my real name as that is how I am still known for official administrative purposes (at least until I can go ahead with a name change by deed poll).

In a previous entry (http://valen1971.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/thurrock-councils-stealth-rent-increase.html) I posted a letter I wrote to my local ward councillors, here are the responses I got:

Cllr Kerin

Thanks for this, Myles. Will be in touch asap.


Cllr Pothecary

Dear Myles,

Thank you for getting in touch.

We fought the proposals on this when they were first proposed last October and gathered a petition against it which was presented at full council.

I have also fought this all the way at Housing O and S Committee. I'm really upset the conservative council pushed this through. I am appalled that people living in a high rise are being charged for having a lift. It is disgraceful.

We are starting to find lots of tenants being affected across the borough so we're looking at the next steps we can take.

All th the best,

Jane


Cllr Kerin (again)
Hi Myles
Have you seen Jane's reply?
Her, Tony and I are working together to fight it.
Yours
Martin

To which I replied:
Hi Martin,

Yes, I have seen Jane's reply.  I found out about an online petition on the subject (which I have signed and shared on Facebook).  If there's a paper petition going around and you know where it's going to be, let me know so I can sign that too.

Regards,

Myles

Cllr Kerin replied:
Thanks Myles.
Jane, Tony and I are angry about this one. We'll fight as best we can.

I assure the affected residents of Thurrock that I’ll make sure my councillors do “fight as best we can” or they will surely encounter my wrath.

I also sent my letter to the Thurrock Gazette (http://valen1971.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/thurrock-councils-stealth-rent-increase.html) the same day as the letter to my ward councillors.  It got quoted (for some reason under my preferred name of ‘Valen’) on their website in an article titled “Thurrock residents outraged at 'tenant top-up tax' bill as petition receives more than 500 signatures” (http://www.thurrockgazette.co.uk/news/15512553.Residents_outraged_at__tenant_top_up_tax__bill_as_petition_receives_more_than_500_signatures/).

The letter also got published (although in a very edited form) as you can see from the photo below:




It was also quoted in the updated news report in the hard copy version of the Thurrock Gazette.  The piece was now titled “700 sign to stop service charges” but now the attribution for the quoted section uses my given name.


During an attack of insomnia I wrote my article ripping apart (as best I could) the defence of the policy by Cllr Gledhill, Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Housing.  It can be viewed here: http://valen1971.blogspot.com/2017/09/destroying-defence-of-thurrock-councils.html

Someone on Facebook commented on the link I posted that Cllr Gledhill should get a copy so I sent him one as well as sending it to my local ward councillors and the reporter who quoted my original letter.  Here are the responses I received so far:

Cllr Fish
Miles
Thank you for your email and attachment. I think it is well written and has many strong points. As you may be aware Thurrock Labour are mounting a Borough-wide campaign against charges along with local residents
Cllr Fish

I replied:
Dear Cllr Fish,

Yes, I was aware of Labour's campaign and I'm willing to offer any help your campaign needs.  There is already an online petition that I have signed and shared.  I have been led to believe that there is also a pen-and-paper petition so, if you find out about it, please send it towards [Address redacted] as I'm sure it'll pick up more than a few signatures here.

Regards,

Myles

Cllr Fish replied:
Myles
Thank you for your support. We will certainly be looking to maximise the number of signatories to both petitions
Cllr Fish

Cllr Kerin
Brilliant. Thank you.

The e-mail I sent to Cllr Gledhill:
Dear Cllr Gledhill,

Attached is a copy of my blog about your defence of the increase in council rents.  Please read it and send me a response as soon as possible.  I will, of course, be posting your response on my blog.

Regards,

Myles (Valen) Cook

Cllr Gledhill was ‘out of the office’ but I did receive this reply from his PA:
Dear Mr Cook

Thank you for your email to Cllr Gledhill.

I have forwarded your email onto the Assistant Director of Housing for a response to your enquiry.

The department will contact you directly via email is due course.

Kind regards

Cara Smith l PA to Elected Members I Chief Executive's Office

A response from the Assistant Director of Housing was not what I asked for so I reiterated my request.

Dear Ms Smith,

I am just as interested in Cllr Gledhill's response as it is he that is defending this policy.  Please ensure that Cllr Gledhill gets a copy of the article so he can offer his personal response.

Regards,

Myles Cook

I will post any future responses here on this blog.

I have already mentioned (in a previous entry) the shout out from fellow bloggers, The South Essex Stirrer, and you can get the link to that article here: http://valen1971.blogspot.com/2017/09/quick-plug-for-some-sites.html.  Your Thurrock also reproduced part of the article I wrote ripping apart Cllr Gledhill’s statement and posted a link to the full article here on this blog.

I replied to a couple of comments on the Thurrock Gazette’s website on the page with the article titled “Thurrock residents outraged at 'tenant top-up tax' bill as petition receives more than 500 signatures” so here are the comments and the replies I posted.


 



Well, that’s the round-up of the responses, mentions and debate so far although there has been some debate on Facebook as well that I think can stay there for now as it’s going to be a hard job finding everything.

Feel free to comment on what’s been covered here below.