What more Tax?

Yesterday I blogged about Labour controlled Ipswich Borough Council’s ever rising bills, and the contrast with Conservative controlled organisations.

A fine example of this is Tim Passmore the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner who is for the second year running proposing a 0% rise in the Police precept again fulfilled his promise to freeze the police element of the council tax bill, so across Suffolk freezing the policing element of the council tax this year means that the average amount paid by every household in Suffolk remains at £166.77 a year which is just £3.20 a week (based on a Band D property).

Heard yesterday that IBC Labour master’s have finally admitted, surprise, surprise, that they intend to impose another increase and are planning to put up the Council Tax by 1.99% which is of course just below the threshold requiring them to ask the residents what they think of their further tax grab. Contrast that with the budget consultation across Suffolk from the County Council where way back in October we were discussing our thoughts about the budget and council tax, the contrast in all respects is quite startling.

Of course this is even worse when you realise that they will have to hand back the Government 1% incentive to do the right thing and not put up Council Tax. Can you imagine what Labour would be demanding if there were no referendum trigger! Seems to me they just don’t get how hard it is for hard working families struggling to pay the bills, they say they do, but demonstrably they do not.

All the residents of Ipswich can now hope is that today or tomorrow the Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP lowers the threshold to trigger a referendum to 1.49% or better still 0%.

Come on Eric the good people Ipswich need you to save them money!

 

What more rent?

A couple of weeks ago the Ipswich Borough Council’s Labour-run borough’s executive of portfolio holders took just under three minutes to rush through the recommendation and agreed to raise council housing rent by 5.5%, which will cost the average council tenant £4.44 per week – £230 per year and I understand by over £600 since they into office 3 years ago. This totally unjustified rent rise was debated at a full council meeting and whilst Labour Councillors took a bit longer they still pushed it through.

I’ve read various responses to the universal criticism of this Council grab from hard working families struggling to pay their bills and it somewhat reminds me of the comments made by Labour when they were in power at County Hall and increased the Council tax by 11.9% in one year and 18.5% in the next. The core theme of which is along the lines of ‘well we have to, if we are to build more Council houses’, in the county case it was ‘well we have to, if we are to maintain services’. Nonsense then and nonsense now, let’s be clear the funding of new Council housing does not come from council house rents.

I’m not sure if it’s just that they can’t be bothered to take a deep hard look at the way they run the council or they just take a view that they are so efficient how could they possibly re-organise, focus on outcomes, find new ways of working, ditch the dogma and make the council live within its means.

Of course we all watch with interest to see what the Labour controlled Borough Council comes up with in terms of council tax rises. Yet another year of ever rising bills or will they take their lead from the Conservative County Council and the Conservative District and Borough Councils about them and freeze council tax or will they pursue their socialist dogma and yet again sting the people of Ipswich for voting Labour? – we wait to see.

Post War prefab housing – the homes of tomorrow?

Over a year ago I spoke in support of Councillor Judy Terry’s comments about the post war prefabricated housing on Inverness Road in Ipswich and I was royally flamed for having an opinion on an Ipswich issue. So here goes again, last week I learnt will dismay that Cllr. John Mowles the Labour housing Portfolio Holder on the Borough Council, the same one who this year is pushing up the Ipswich’s council house rents by £200 for those who are working hard and paying rent, is proposing that Ipswich Borough Council spend money revamping the 127 prefabs homes on the estate and yet can’t or won’t even indicate how much extended life span the money will provide.

When I previously spoke it was twisted that I was against the residents and shame on me but nothing was further from the truth, essentially from what I hear the residents love their bungalows and gardens and the low density of the area, who would not, but it’s the quality of the fabric of the buildings and the ability to heat them that is the real concern.

Not to put too fine a position on it, structural re-furbishing of sub-standard prefab housing is an utter nonsense, putting new roofs, services and insulation into a crumbling superstructure that in engineering terms has now failed as they were designed to last 20 years, 60 years ago and to do anything other than replace them is ridiculously short sighted. It’s also proposed that the Borough will install new kitchens, bathrooms and windows but even that is strange as any social housing provider will tell you, such important things should be a part of an on-going stock maintenance programmes not an executive decision.

What qualifies me to speak about housing is simply that I happen to know a thing or two about prefab bungalows. Firstly because I am a third generation builder and at a technical level know about housing construction and mainly bungalows to boot having built quite a few of them. And secondly because in my youth I worked with my grandfather and he was involved in a property company that owned a number of prefabs within its stock and one of my jobs was in part to understand the maintenance, repairs and improvements, which were costly and a nightmare as structural components failed time and time again, and that was 30 years ago!

In terms of what could be built and it’s density, fortunately the centralised density dictates of the old PPG 3 that were a feature of the last Labour government are a thing of the past and providers can build at what density they like and here residents like the lower density and gardens which can easily be recreated with new modern bungalows and perhaps even an extra care scheme for those who still want to live in the area but for whom their large gardens are now a struggle.

Why can’t IBC start a programme of partial improvement, focus on replacing the dwellings allowing people who love their location, density and gardens the opportunity to have a new modern bungalow where they live, and finding a provider of extra care to invest in the area. Refurbishing prefabs is simply not good enough and the residents of Inverness Road surely deserve a Council with more forth-sight than this, maybe the massive rent rises for those who work and pay rent to the council might pay for a bit more vision?

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