Client: Brent Borough Council
Campaign: Collection of council house rent
PR Team: In-house (Brent Housing)
Timescale: October 1999 - April 2000
Budget: pounds 1,500
Brent Council has had problems in the past collecting rent for council
housing in the borough. Brent has the highest homeless population in
London, with many people living in temporary housing, such as bed and
breakfast accommodation. All rent collected by the borough goes back
into housing services.
To increase the amount of rent collected during the council’s financial
year from council tenants in the borough from 96.4 per cent to the 99.5
per cent needed to balance the books, especially following the
traditional dip in payments after the Christmas and New Year
Strategy and Plan
Brent Council decided to take a tough line on residents who would not
pay their rent, while trying to remain sensitive to those who had
legitimate reasons for not paying. The approach it decided to adopt was
that it would evict any tenant who would not pay their rent, but would
willingly offer help to those who could not.
In October, Brent Housing used the local press to express its
forthcoming intentions of ’zero tolerance’ but stressed that any tenants
who foresaw problems with paying their rent should consult one of the
borough’s ’rent surgeries’. These were set up so that tenants could
speak to a housing officer who could either offer advice or draw their
attention to one of the easier payment schemes.
Brent Housing launched the main phase of its campaign in the new
It designed a poster in-house that delivered a powerful message to
potential culprits. The poster featured an empty room in a council
property with the slogan ’Our New Year’s Re(nt)solution’ at the top. It
stated unequivocally that ’Brent Council will evict tenants who will not
pay their rent’. However, at the bottom of the poster was a line that
asked people to phone a number if they needed help in paying.
The poster was put up in all council offices in the borough, on all
council vehicles, in all area housing offices - where tenants would go
to report a leaking pipe, for example - as well as on 30 backlit poster
hoardings in the area. A deal was made with poster contractors to
provide the hoarding sites free of charge.
At the same time, stories were given to the local press that reiterated
the demand for payment and the consequences of not doing so. The stories
also included case-studies of previous evictions, as well as those who
had been helped by friendly staff to clear their arrears. Local
councillors were quoted in these various articles. The message was very
much ’if you ignore the problem then you’ll be evicted’.
Measurement and Evaluation
The local newspapers communicated the council’s new stance on payment of
rent, leading up to and during the action period of the campaign.
For the financial year leading up to April 2000 the campaign
successfully achieved a 100 per cent collection of rent - amounting to
over pounds 43 million - as well as collecting a proportion of rent
arrears, bringing the percentage up to 100.6 per cent. This exceeded the
99.5 per cent target that had been set.
The local press and the poster aspect of the campaign successfully
communicated the need to pay council house rent in the borough, with the
council collecting its entire rent for the first time ever.
The council managed to avoid criticism of its hard line approach by
always clearly communicating that it was willing to give help to those
who asked for it.