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Ipswich: Council house rents set for inflation-busting increase

PUBLISHED: 09:00 17 January 2014 | UPDATED: 09:07 17 January 2014

John Mowles

John Mowles

Archant

Council house rents in Ipswich are set to rise by almost three times the current inflation rate, the Star can reveal today.

The Labour-run borough’s executive will next week be urged to impose a 5.5% rise in council rents. The current inflation rate is 2%.

The rents are due to go up in line with a formula recommended by the government – although authorities are free to increase them, freeze them, or even reduce them as much as they like.

Ipswich council portfolio holder for housing John Mowles said the increase was being recommended to enable the council’s finances to remain in good order.

And it would also allow the authority to invest in more social housing – it was revealed this week that the borough is hoping to build a further 300 council homes over the next three years.

Only about a third of the council’s 8,200 tenants pay full rents – the remainder get some or all of their rent paid by housing benefit.

Mr Mowles said: “We do need to propose this increase to ensure that we are able to manage our housing stock in good order.

“It will allow us to continue our programme of building more homes which will, of course, bring in more income in the future – and new homes tend to need less maintenance than older stock.”

The government had recommended that local authorities should charge tenants 80% of commercial rents.

Mr Mowles said: “If we had taken that advice, we would be putting up rents by 20%. This will work out at about £4.40 a week for the average tenant.”

Brian Laffling is the independent chair of the tenants’ scrutiny committee, and said the proposed increase was “very disappointing.”

He said: “It is more than we would have liked – but we thought the rise would be quite large.

“They are talking about possibly freezing council tax bills, so I suppose they have to get the money from somewhere and it is the tenants who will have to pay more – or at least those who pay full rents.”

Ipswich Tory MP Ben Gummer said the decision to rise rents was purely a matter for the council – the government put no pressure on it to set a particular level of rent.

He said: “What you are seeing here is the working poor having to pay more in council rents. Those on benefits will not be affected because their rents will be paid anyway, but those who are earning will be facing a significant rent rise.”

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