March 9 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Homeowners could see their rents go up by more than £220 a year because of a £57million debt levied on a council by the government, according to a leading councillor.
Council tenants in Mid Suffolk could see their weekly rents go up by more than 5%, following a rise of 4% last year.
Opposition leader at Mid Suffolk District Council, Green councillor Andrew Stringer, said he had “sympathy” with the Conservative authority which had put forward the increases.
He claimed the government’s policy meant council rents were being forced in line with more expensive, but similar homes, in the area.
“We had to take a loan of about £60m at Mid Suffolk to get the loan at a reduced rate – the rent rises have nothing to do with council cuts, it is to with the government,” Mr Stringer said. “I have a problem with this and have voted against it. I do have sympathy with Mid Suffolk District Council’s position but it does not mean I agree with it.”
In 2012 it was revealed that more than £300m of debt had been handed to Suffolk councils due to the government’s decision to abolish the Housing Revenue Account.
Now individual councils, which own housing stock, are responsible for their share from the account but will receive 100% of housing rents. At the time Mid Suffolk said the changes would allow the authority to build its own affordable housing for the first time in 20 years.
Marilyn Curran, deputy leader and housing portfolio holder for Mid Suffolk, said no final decision had been made to increase rents.
“We are considering various options but I did have a meeting with tenants and they do understand that there is a need for the housing to be kept at a decent standard and to consider building homes for the Right to Buy scheme,” she said. “There are a number of people on a waiting list so there’s a lot to be considered.”
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said councils should be “striking a balance” between making rents affordable and having enough money for investment in homes and services. “There is no requirement on councils to apply the maximum rent increase if they can deliver a good service while applying a smaller change,” he said.