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Issue 8 - November 1972
...And In Sunderland
Under the Fair Rents Act Sunderland's 37,000 Council tenants will have to pay an average increase of 70p. Sunderland Council asked the Secretary of State at the Department of the Environment to direct that rents were already "fair", but this was turned down and the 30p concession was what they got instead.

This means that a complicated rents rebate scheme has been worked out, based on the rateable value of the particular property concerned. Some tenants are paying as little as 20p more, most are paying less than the 70p, a few are paying more; all the Council have to ensure is that an average increase of 70p is generated in the revenue from the rents per Council house or flat.

In doing this, the controlling Labour Group on the Council have decided against defying the Act, in spite of protest from both inside the Party and from the tenants themselves.

At the Housing Committee meeting on September 11, Coun Charles Slater, the leader of the Labour Group, gave his reasons. He is quoted as saying: "I dont' think the rents should go up at all, but I am not prepared to face personal bankruptcy and disqualification from office". He was rejecting a petition with 10,000 signatures, presented at that meeting by the local Communist Party.

Slater has also said that at least they had gained the 30p reduction and that if the Act was now defied, not only would the councillors be surcharged, but the whole £1 increase would be imposed by the Government.

The Corporation then launched a massive campaign publicising the rents rebate scheme, in an effort to make sure that every Council house tenant who could claim a rebate would get one. There is no record of how successful this has been.

Opposition to the Party's decision to implement the Act in Sunderland has come from several sources, but it has up to now been disregarded.

Notable among the protestors has been the lonely voice of one Labour Councillor, Mrs Florence Otterson. Herself a Council house tenant in the Thorney Close estate, she told the Housing Committee on September 12 and the full Council meeting on September 27 that she had no intention of paying the increase in her rent. She has mobilised opposition on her own estate and has appealed to local Trade Unions for support.

Mrs Otterson points out that people who quality for a rebate may simply get less social security instead. "Where the Government gives with one hand, they will take away with the other."

Sunderland and District Trades Council did send a deputation to the last meeting of the Labour Group. But their plea for a rejection of the Act was turned down and the Labour councillors decided to stand by their decision, reproducing the arguments Slater had made at the earlier Housing Committee meeting. Another councillor, Mrs Ethel Glanville, accused some Labour Group councillors of being "two-faced".

The local Conservatives have now stepped in. They are accusing the Labour Group of using Council notepaper for party political propaganda. They say that this is what the letter sent to all Council house tenants explaining the Housing Committee's objections to the Act and outlining plans for rebates amounts to.