08:00PM, Saturday 22 January 2022
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Are ‘affordable’ homes really that affordable?
Recent government policy alongside the fallout from the COVID crisis are resulting in rises in domestic heating costs, increases in National Insurance contributions and escalating food prices.
The future is certainly bleak for many in the population.
However, there is another area of increasing concern which was already with us long before the pandemic and which has not yet been adequately addressed.
This is the ongoing housing crisis.
Slough has a shrinking stock of council houses.
This is due to the fact that when Margaret Thatcher’s government brought in the ‘right to buy’ in the 1980s, most of the money went back to the government and was never intended to fund more houses.
The loss of such an important social asset was an absolute tragedy and disgrace affecting the lives of millions of people. The sell-off led to further changes and problems.
Many councils transferred control of their remaining council houses to housing associations, many of which fared very well financially as private businesses although often to the detriment of the tenants themselves.
The housing stock was all but sacrificed in the name of profit.
In the 2019 General Election, the Labour manifesto pledged to build 100,000 council houses a year.
In the last year for which data is available and under the Tory government, only 6,000 were built and not by the government.
The main part of the Tory housing strategy is building ‘affordable’ houses.
We have heard of so called ‘affordable’ houses in Slough being priced at £290,000 which the average Slough resident is unlikely to be able to afford.
So we ask ourselves affordable to whom?
The national median wage is approximately £31k according to the ONS (Office for National Statistics) and the IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) study found that rates of poverty in working households increased to a new high of 17 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, equivalent to more than one in six households.
Perhaps Slough’s ‘affordable’ homes are being taken up by people moving out of London because they cannot afford to buy there. So local people, and particularly young people, lose out and are left bereft of somewhere to live themselves.
Private renters often have short contracts and are vulnerable to eviction.
Waiting lists for homes are lengthening year on year so it is clear that little fundamental progress is being made
If you look around Slough, there are many flats for sale and to rent. But we do not need these; we need council houses.
In recent years, Slough had again built council houses and negotiated for homes provision, including social housing, in big developments.
Sadly, the current financial difficulties have stopped this.
But the aim was to continue a policy which had worked so well and for so many people. Council housing, not affordable housing, should be back on the table as a government priority.
Secretary, Slough & District TUC
Investing in services across the community
The Royal Boroughs’s finance reports are open and transparent and we include all known risks so the residents we are privileged to serve can fully understand the council’s financial position.
Some like to focus on the council’s debt which is money borrowed to build and improve community facilities such as leisure centres, for infrastructure to support our growing population and the important regeneration of Maidenhead.
We forecast debt to be £213million at the end of the financial year but in 2024/25 this will start to reduce, if we chose, capital receipts would allow us to be debt free by 2036.
What is more important to residents is the impact of the draft Revenue Budget that is still open to public consultation at https://rbwmtogether.rbwm.gov.uk/budget-consultation.
I anticipate that many would be surprised to learn that we propose to invest an additional £5.3 million in council services including bus services, climate change and protecting vulnerable children whilst making savings of £3.3 million, not through cutting or compromising the quality of services but through our highly successful transformation programme.
No one likes increased costs, but the likely council tax increase of 3 per cent will be below inflation and residents of Windsor and Maidenhead will benefit from the lowest council tax outside of London and for a Band D property between £280 and £500 less than our neighbouring local authorities.
Cllr DAVID HILTON
Cabinet Member for Finance and Ascot
With gratitude for a life-saving NHS team
I would like to write an open thank you letter in particular to A&E, AAU, Ward 17, Aaron and Brian the paramedics and the wonderful doctors and nurses at Wexham Park Hospital who literally saved my life when I suffered an acute asthma attack recently.
I’ve luckily never been hospitalised before, and was most impressed and in awe of the work these tireless dedicated professionals do, day after day, week after week.
They don’t just deserve a clap, more like a medal, and more pay.
We take good health for granted, but when it’s gone it makes you realise what’s important – the day to day trivia that we unnecessarily stress about just fades away.
I am eternally grateful for all that you do, but hope never to see you again!
Visitors to Burnham Park Hall on Monday May 16 can undergo a ‘living with dementia experience’ as part of National Dementia Action Week.