7.8% rise in council rent

moneyBS Council houses at the Wybourn
moneyBS Council houses at the Wybourn
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COUNCIL house rents are to go up by inflation-busting amounts across South Yorkshire - but housing bosses blamed the rises on Government policy.

Sheffield’s 42,000 council households face a 7.8 per cent rise - an average of £4.87 a week.

Average rents in the city are currently £62.32 per week but the sum is set to rise to £67.19.

Council tenants in Rotherham will have to pay a 9.45 per cent rise and people in Barnsley face a 8.8 per cent hike - with inflation running at 5.2 per cent.

Housing bosses say the increase is necessary because of a long-standing Government policy to increase historically low council house rents to the same level as those of housing association properties, to cover management costs without subsidy.

Rent levels have to be equalised by 2015-16 or councils suffer financial penalties.

But Beverley Rishworth, of Fraser Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, in Woodseats, Sheffield, said: “It’s going to make life hard. It’s always the people at the bottom of society who have to suffer.

“The council could recoup more income from the £2.6 million of unpaid council tax or by not paying such massive wages for some jobs.”

Mick Daniels, chairman of Brushes Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, Firth Park, added: “The Government should stretch the date out for rent convergence to 2020 and make smaller increases.

“Such a huge rise will come as a big shock for many households and comes on top of increases for everything else and people losing their jobs.

“A lot of families are already on the breadline.”

Coun Harry Harpham, Sheffield Council cabinet member for housing, said: “We are doing what the Government says we have to do.

“The increase will work out at £4.87 per household but what we can confirm is that we have frozen charges wherever possible to ease the burden.

“There will be no increase in charges for community heating, or service charges for furnished accommodation, temporary accommodation and burglar alarms.”

“We understand that budgets are tight.”

Sheffield tenants’ and residents’ associations will be consulted on the proposals at a meeting of the City Wide Forum on Thursday this week with the council cabinet then set to make a final decision a week tomorrow.

Steve Ruffle, development manager for Rotherfed, an umbrella organisation for tenants’ and residents’ groups in Rotherham, where tenants face the largest rent rise, said: “It will cause real hardship for tenants on low incomes.

“I know that historically, Rotherham’s council rents have been low but it’s almost double the rate of inflation after an 8.69 per cent rent rise last year.”

But the councils insists it has no choice.

Barnsley and Rotherham Council’s ruling cabinets are set to approve their rent rises at meetings tomorrow, with Sheffield to follow in the coming weeks.

Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone said: “There is nothing we can do about the rent rise. If we don’t implement it, we will be penalised.”

Housing Minister Grant Shapps defended the policy.

He said: “The current rents policy has been in place since 2002, and is there to ensure fairness in social housing, whether council or housing association homes.

“Social rents remain well below market levels, and housing benefit will continue to meet the costs for eligible tenants who cannot afford to pay.”

The Government said that further rent rises are due for the two further years before rent levels between council and housing associations are equal, enabling housing to be ‘self financing’.

Rents in numbers:

42,000 - the number of council houses in Sheffield

7.8% - rent rise in Sheffield

9.45% - rent rise in rotherham

8.8% - rent rise in Barnsley