LETTERS: Stevenage councillor defends rent rise as Liberal Democrat group leader criticises North Hertfordshire recycling policy

Cllr Ann Webb has explained Stevenage Borough Council's decision to increase social rents

Cllr Ann Webb has explained Stevenage Borough Council's decision to increase social rents - Credit: Archant

A decision to increase social renting costs in Stevenage and change recycling in North Hertfordshire have seen councillors contribute to our letters page this week.

A heavy heart when setting rent increase

SIR - At this time of year our focus as a council turns to the issue of setting council house rents for the forthcoming year.

This is always a difficult exercise, as we have to balance the ability of our tenants to pay their rent with the need for us to raise finances to deliver a housing service that meets the needs of our tenants.

Coming to a decision this year has been particularly difficult, due to the impact national government housing policies are having on local government housing finances.

In recent years, our tenants have continually informed us that they would like to see better quality homes, an improved repairs service, and the provision of new council housing. In response to these requests, we have undertaken a multi-million pound investment to bring our homes up to the government’s Decent Homes standard by installing new bathrooms, kitchens, fuel efficient central heating systems and generally making our homes more comfortable for our tenants to enjoy.

We have invested in our repairs service and have worked with tenants to improve this. Tenant’s satisfaction with the repairs service is 98%, a comparable rate that is mirrored with many other good performing councils. We have recently seen the first new council housing in Stevenage for almost 30 years as we unveiled our new homes at Hertford Road and Wedgewood Way. We have also given the green light to regenerate the Archer Road Neighbourhood Centre, which will see 30 new council homes built.

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When considering the rent we should set, we also take into account the pressures we face. Two years ago the government changed the way council housing is funded. As a result of these changes – called self-financing – this council took on £217m of government debt which we have to repay over the next 30 years.

We are also facing an unprecedented increase in the sale of council homes following the government’s changes to the Right-to-Buy legislation. In the last year alone we have lost 68 council homes through Right-to-Buy, and we do not see this trend reducing. We anticipate that the reduction in our housing stock due to the government’s Right-to-Buy policy will have a negative impact on our income to the tune of £171m in lost rental income over the next 30 years.

Government changes to how we manage council housing, such as the ‘bedroom tax’ and the forthcoming Universal Credit create further problems for us to manage, and additional expenditure we have to meet.

It is with a heavy heart that myself and my colleagues increased council house rents, as we try and balance the needs of our tenants with their ability to pay. Without doubt, the over-riding pressure we face today is bought upon us by our own government who expect their disastrous housing policies to be paid for by those who can least afford it.

Councillor Ann Webb

Executive Member for Housing

Stevenage Borough Council


Chime time

SIR - Re: Call for parish poll on church chimes’ future.

Trumpton. Telling the time, steadily, sensibly; never too quickly, never too slowly. Telling the time for Trumpton (Ashwell).

“Oh no,” said half the village. “This village church bell is too loud and it chimes every 15 minutes very loudly, it’s above the European directive levels for noise, the man said so, we must do something to stop this”.

Mr Troop the parish clerk arranged a vote to satisfy the townspeople which was very expensive given that a lot of other people in different parts of Trumptonshire are in much worse circumstances due to poor health resources, flooding, lack of affordable housing and poverty etc but hey this is Trumpton (Ashwell) who are living in their own fantasy world of what is important and what is not.

Anyway Chippy Minton the carpenter and Mr Platt the clockmaker decided they could fix this but needed the help of the fire brigade.

“Right men, action stations” shouted Captain Flack. After Pugh Pugh Barney McGrew Cuthbert Dibble and Grub arrived at the scene they were able, with the help of a big muffler kindly knitted by Miss Lovelace the village milliner, climb the tower with their ladders and eventually silence the church bell.

Ashwell do us all a favour and get a life or just don’t buy houses near churches.

Denise Maxwell



Liner lament

SIR - Your correspondent Dr John Dawson is absolutely correct that North Herts District Council’s decision to stop providing compostable bin liners will result in less food waste being recycled. The council says that the quantity of waste food placed in brown bins is less than expected, but making it less convenient for people to compost their food waste is not going to encourage more to do it.

The county council pays North Herts council money based on the amount of waste that does not get sent to landfill. This year North Herts expects to get around £400,000 in this way, although depending on the amount recycled it could turn out to be substantially more. North Herts plans to spend less than half of this on publicity to encourage people to recycle. The rest will just disappear into the council’s reserves.

At the council meeting last Thursday Liberal Democrat councillors proposed that the council should spend up to £150,000 of the money paid by the county council to provide bin liners to those residents who wanted them. Unfortunately both the Conservatives, who run the council, and Labour voted against this.

The result will be less food waste recycled and ultimately less money from the county council so North Herts will lose out both ways – less recycling and less money.

I’m afraid that those in charge of North Herts District Council – and the Labour opposition – either don’t understand this or don’t care.

Steve Jarvis

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group

North Herts District Council


Stop abuse

SIR - Re the article in last week’s Comet regarding Siobhan Meade and the abuse she receives while she is out and about with her guide dog in Stevenage.

Life must be hard enough not being able to see without having to put up with abuse. Through my nan I am acquainted with both Siobhan and her partner Sean, who is also blind. They are two of the kindest and most courageous people you could wish to meet.

That they should encounter this sort of abuse is beyond my comprehension – I would like to know how these louts would cope without their sight. I don’t know what upsets me the most, a group of ignorant louts who should know better or the people that just walk by and ignore the situation. Whichever, they should all be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Christine Rees

Minehead Way



Road action

SIR - May I through your letters page reply to Gareth Pugh’s letter in last week’s Comet about potholes in Bedford Road, Letchworth GC.

Once elected each new councillor at Hertfordshire County Council is informed that for the first year they have £30,000 to spend on highways works through the locality budget scheme and that a highways locality officer is allocated to them for advice and technical help.

All schemes have to be costed and some traffic regulation orders posted before schemes can be completed, which all takes time. The remaining £60,000 for the year had already been allocated by the previous councillor.

I was advised by the highways officer that in order to make best use of the £30,000 I should allocate it to schemes already costed or requested by constituents, these being Icknield Green, footpaths in Elderfield and yellow lines requested by residents in Redhoods Way.

The next year’s allocation of £90,000 for 2014/15 had to be decided on by September last year and I was advised by the officer to choose the worst affected roads. I asked about Bedford Road and was told it was to be part of the Integrated Works Programme (IWP) and that my money was best used for smaller projects - these will be works on roads and footways in the Grange and Wilbury.

Councillor Gary Grindle and myself highlighted Bedford Road to the Comet because several constituents had raised the issue with us, and as Bedford Road is now being brought forward by the county council, maybe I should be political more often as highlighting issues to the Comet seems to get things done.

Cllr Lorna Kercher

Letchworth GC


Heart issue

SIR - Mass medication by statins is not the best solution to reducing heart attacks.

I was prescribed statins for many years because my cholesterol level was high, even though two angiograms revealed no arterial deposit. Statins did reduce the level but gave me painful side-effects, which my GP was unable to explain, or alleviate.

The statins appeared to reduce my HDL, the ‘good’ cholesterol, adversely to the LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol.

What is needed is not the statin ‘sticking-plaster,’ rather gene therapy engineered to increase the liver’s production of HDL, plus a sensible diet and exercise, to reduce risk of heart attacks.

As none of these contribute to the profits of the pharmaceutical companies this form of gene therapy treatment is unlikely to be developed.

Robert Sunderland

Oak House

Little Wymondley


Light lesson

SIR - Re Bern Ward’s letter in last week’s Comet about the traffic lights for junction seven.

I work in Hatfield as a night transport manager and I use the junction in the late evening and early morning. It is so annoying to have to stop at a red light when there is no other vehicle around.

The lights have had no effect whatsoever on controlling traffic, in fact if anything they cause longer hold ups, i.e. before the lights were installed the traffic tailback was between the Stevenage football ground and the roundabout adjacent to the Esso garage on Broadhall Way at the junction with Broadwater Crescent.

Since the lights were introduced the traffic is now often further back along Broadhall Way towards Hertford.

We have the technology to put the lights on timed operation and the lights should be peak time only.

The fact that vehicles are having to stop for no reason in the middle of the night can only add to our carbon footprint. If you have a 44 tonne HGV coming into Stevenage coming up a very step gradient to the roundabout then having to stop because the lights are on red they stop, it will takes a great deal of energy in the way of burning extra fuel to get the vehicle in motion again.

I also concur with Mr Ward’s observations about near misses on the roundabout.

When the traffic lights were installed the road layout was changed, and what seem to catch out most drivers new to the area is the left hand lane into the science park when joining the A1(M) southbound. Vehicles move into the left lane thinking it is for the A1(M), only to find the lane takes them into the science park.

They then panic and move back into the lane for the motorway forcing other road uses to take evasive action - thus causing many near misses.

Roy Worden