The point surely is that the underfunding of allowances leaves all councils between a rock and a hard place. Paperwork sent to all local authorities from the review of council housing finance team states ‘there is a significant body of evidence that present allowances are insufficient to sustain the condition of council housing and management services’. Thank goodness someone in the review is listening to the points raised by the Moonlight Robbery campaign.
The HRA review papers also reveal that in 2006/07 councils spent £605 million more on management and maintenance than the Treasury allowances, and this must have been the bare minimum needed for councils to keep their heads above water. According to Moonlight Robbery campaign figures, councils actually need to spend £1.3 billion more than they are allowed by the Treasury in 2008/09. Faced with such pressures, it is no wonder that Waverley Council can’t meet the decent homes standard and that Islington Council is tearing its hair out over managing 1960s flats.
But instead of squabbling and special pleading, councils should unite around a call for the full funding of allowances at the levels of research need. This is not only fair, but all councils (small or large, urban or rural) benefit similarly.
An important but small start should be made in next year’s ‘subsidy’ settlement. Since it is clearly wrong that more than £200 million of tenants’ rents be creamed off next year by the Treasury in a direct national tax, and since the HRA review already accepts that allowances are underfunded by much more than £200 million, the Treasury should give back next year’s projected tax on tenants and allow councils to keep the money in management and maintenance allowances. This way Waverley and Islington benefit similarly and the Treasury doesn’t get away with yet another year’s shameful robbery of tenants.
David Gibson, consultant, Brighton