Row erupts over the way Rotherham Council channels cash from housing rents back into communities
A scheme designed to tackle problems on Rotherham’s council estates has been criticised as ‘incredibly unfair’ with an accusation it pumps too much cash into relatively affluent areas.
However, the council itself has defended the recently introduced arrangement as a more even way of distributing cash that the system it replaced.
Rotherham Council has an Area Housing Budget of £203,000, money raised from the rental income it receives from tenants, which is redistributed across the borough to help address problems specific to each community.
But independent campaigner Michael Sylvester, who operates in the Thrybergh area, believes the formula used creates an unfair disadvantage for the wards which are home to the biggest council estates, which also tend to be the most disadvantaged districts.
Each area is allocated a block of cash, topped up according to the number of council-owned properties in the ward.
But according to Mr Sylvester, that creates a huge disparity when recalculated on a house-by-house basis, with some disadvantaged areas effectively getting less than £6 per home while in affluent districts, the sum can be inflated beyond £28 for each house.
However, Coun Dominic Beck, Rotherham Council’s Cabinet spokesman for housing, insisted the system had been introduced to recognise the different complexion of the borough’s housing, without simply ring-fencing cash where it was raised.
To do that, he said, overall rental incomes would have to be calculated – not just numbers of homes – because rents varied from property to property.
Mr Sylvester said: ““Where I live in Thrybergh along with areas like Dalton and East Herringthorpe are part of Valley Ward. Valley is the second most deprived ward in Rotherham with many challenges yet Labour’s devolved we will receive just £5.99 per council house to improve our estates while Hellaby which covers the upmarket areas of Wickersley will receive £28.60 per property” explained Michael.
“In total Valley has 1889 council homes and will receive a total budget of £11,307.
“Rotherham has four wards that have less than average deprivation for England ( Anston & Woodsetts, Hellaby, Sitwell and Wales) that only have 1583 council homes but will have a combined area housing budget of £34,772 over triple what Valley gets for 300 fewer council homes which is incredibly unfair.”
He has highlighted two wards, which are recognised as among the most deprived in England, as forming one continuous area of high deprivation.
The Rotherham East and Valley wards stretch from the town centre, through Dalton, Eastwood and East Herringthorpe to Thrybergh.
Mr Sylvester said: “This area of extreme deprivation will receive an area housing budget of £22,350 for its 3627 council homes.
“The seven least deprived wards in Rotherham have 3565 council homes but will receive nearly £40,000 more (£62,242) to tackle their estate issues.
“This imbalance of funding will I believe drive ever increasing inequalities between our very poor and better off areas.
“ If the council gave each ward an equal budget per council home our most deprived areas would gain an extra £13,875, the truly perverse thing about this is because we are talking housing money Labour are literally making tenants in the poorest areas subsidise those who have got homes in the for want of a better word ‘nicer’ areas”.
Coun Beck said: “It was us that looked into this, Mr Sylvester has come along after the work has been done.
“I am absolutely certain what we have now is fairer than before.”
Ring-fencing money were it was raised did not happen in other areas of local authority budgets, such as council tax, he added: “We have looked at the whole borough and the needs of the whole borough and we think we have moved to a much fairer budgetary methodology. We want to maintain a base budget so every ward can do something meaningful.”