What have they got to hide? Part 5 Housing Debt

Northampton Conservatives  refuse to accept responsibility
Northampton Conservatives refuse to accept responsibility

What have they got to hide? Part 5 Impact of Budget Decisions

Recent research showing that 1 in 12 that’s 8% of people are caught in the poverty trap are through no fault of their own unable to pay their rent has brought the failure of the NBC Conservatives policy into stark focus.

When the Leader and Deputy of the Northampton Conservatives dismissed as nonsense the Labour warnings of the impact of their budget cuts to services over the past two years it was with the arrogance and ignorance of which we have now come to expect from them.

What is undeniable is that the evidence proves, not for the first time, that their arrogance has resulted in a rise in Council Rent Arrears that I amongst others predicted.

In October 2011 when the current administration under the direction of Cllr David Mackintosh took control of the Northampton Borough Council the level of Council Tent Arrears was below £1,400,000 with 3200 tenants in arrears.

In effect of the Councils 12,100 tenants over 26% of them were in arrears.

The data for June 2013 demonstrates that in spite of the tough talk from the Conservatives such as that from The Deputy Leader of the Council that she would be getting tough on people in arrears and had put in place policies to take action after arrears of a fortnight, their policy has failed.

In fact the Cabinet Member responsible for housing went further and when asked about arrears from a member of the opposition said “We will evict them”.

Very clear then.

The Northampton Conservatives are going to get tough with tenants who are in arrears.

Except of course they haven’t.

The fact is that it was as ridiculous a statement then as it is now, based presumably on the combined factors of inexperience on how “evictions” are carried out and a directive not to listen to advice from anyone other than her Leader.

In June 2013 the number of tenants in arrears had risen by 1747 an increase of over 35% to 4947 tenants owing £1,658,372 an increase in the region of a £250,000 or 15.5%.

Perhaps the lack of interest in the rising arrears shown by the Conservatives and especially the Leader was because of his intention to transfer Council Housing to a Housing Association, which as we now know isn’t going to happen.

What should now be of real concern is not only the number of tenants in arrears but the breakdown of those owing rent.

In June last year of the 4947,

3482 were between 1 and 6 weeks in arrears

524 were between 7 and 11 weeks in arrears

and incredibly the tough talking Conservatives policies had seen a rise of

941 tenants who were over 12 weeks in arrears.

Whatever happened to the “we’ll get tough after two weeks” policy?

What is demonstrates is that spin cannot replace reality, and when it comes to the reality of taking legal action the cost and time of carrying out an eviction has to be taken into account when forming policy.

Northampton Conservatives policy is to lay the blame elsewhere
Northampton Conservatives policy is to lay the blame elsewhere

If Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Markham were serious about evicting those in arrears, and let’s assume they only applied it to those 1465 tenants who were over 7 weeks in arrears last June then they’d have to employ and army of lawyers to carry out the legal work.

How the Conservatives can keep a straight face when their economic policies resulted in the rise in the number of tenants in arrears last June hitting an all-time high just beggars belief, and of course it isn’t their fault!!

When I recently challenge their policies on cutting funding for the homeless and the deplorable situation of families in B & B the response was instant being an email from Cllr Mary Markham accusing me of showing a “lack of respect for the Councils hard-working staff”?

A curious complaint from an administration whose leader referred to Council staff being “deadwood”.

So let me make it clear,

It is not the staff in the Housing department who is fault for the problems but the failure of the Conservative administration who arrogantly insists on implementing policies that they have been advised not only by the opposition but also professionals will damage families and increase debt.

A statement that will never been heard from the Conservatives. Failing leadership refusing to accept responsabilty for their actions
A statement that will never been heard from the Conservatives. Failing leadership refusing to accept responsibility for their actions

I have no doubt that what we will see is the usual over reaction response and the Conservative Spin machinery cranked up to full and the needles firmly pointing to the “Blame Them” indicator.

They will say it is all Labours fault?

They will say it has nothing to do with the bedroom tax?

They will say it has nothing to do with the cuts in Council Tax Benefits?

They will say it has nothing to do with the twice above the rate of inflation rent increase?

They will say it has nothing to do with the high numbers of working people on the
National Minimum Wage?

They will say it has nothing to do with the 2.5% increase in VAT.

and they will have a whole list of other reasons why it isn’t their fault,

All of which anyone with a modicum of common sense will recognise for what they are,

Nothing less than a desperate attempt to cover and absolve themselves for their failure.

What causes the greatest concern is that Northampton Borough Council are without a Director of Housing who left suddenly following it is said having fallen out with the
Leader of the Council who it is said was angry at being told that his policies and actions were damaging.

The Director of Housing has been followed by three of the senior housing professionals leaving a real lack of leadership and management with housing experience in Northampton.

Why did they all leave suddenly?

What was it they were telling the Conservatives that if the rumours in the Guildhall are true led to the Leader losing his temper and the sudden departure of the Director of Housing?

More importantly in their overreaction to challenges on homelessness and arrears what else are they trying to hide?