Last night we had the best attended Housing Consultative meeting we have had since, I think, 1998. It was a joint meeting with the Leaseholders' Forum but there was a high attendance by Residents' Associations.
The main matter in hand was the Budget consultation for 2007-8. A major problem for Kingston is the amount central Government extracts from the Housing Revenue A/c in Housing Subsidy. A couple of years ago this was just short of £4million. In the current financial year it is nearly £5million. Next year it will grow by another £1million to just under £6million. This seems to be a consistent Labour Government policy to bleed authorities like Kingston in order to feather the nests of favoured authorities elsewhere - and it's getting worse year by year.
What makes it particularly galling is that our tenants actually voted for this state of affairs when they voted to stay 'with the Council' and against a large-scale stock transfer. They were gulled into this by promises from some that Councillors would be able to help them if they stayed with the Council. Twaddle! Councillors are powerless to stop the Government from levying this 'stealth tax' which takes 28p in every £1 each tenant pays in rent and which could otherwise fund repairs and improvements. The levy doesn't apply to Housing Association properties.
Tenants are rightly worried about the loss of services which may well result from the cash shortage. There was much concern at the risk to the estate ranger service and the possible loss of the dog warden service.
If these valued services are at risk so is the attainment of the Government's much vaunted Decent Homes Standard and its soon to be announced sequel, the Decent Neighbourhoods Standard. The Labour Councillor, the organisation calling itself LATCH and Unison which backed them should be ashamed of themselves for what they led our tenants into. I doubt if they will be though.