Ipswich: Gummer launches furious attack on council rent rise

Ben Gummer attacked the rent increase. Ben Gummer attacked the rent increase.

Thursday, January 30, 2014
6:00 AM

Ipswich Conservative MP Ben Gummer last night launched a furious attack on the Labour-run borough council, accusing it of “Ripping off the working poor” as it put up council rents by nearly three times the rate of inflation.

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The borough council had voted to increase rents by 5.5% in line with a formula devised by the government.

However Mr Gummer insisted there was no need to put up rents that high. He said: “This rise as outrageous. The Labour group is subsidising their own political ambitions off the backs of those who can afford it least.”

He said there was no requirement to increase rents so much and a new government formula was being introduced next year.

If this had been applied by the council rents would have gone up by 3.2% rather than 5.5%. The average increase for tenants will be about £4.40 a week – £230 a year.

Other Labour councils were putting up rents considerably less than Ipswich – Doncaster had increased rents by 3.7% and Ealing had not put up rents at all. The current inflation rate is 2%.

Mr Gummer added: “The council talks about the cost of living and yet at a time when they could have helped those who need it most, they recommend this inflation-busting rise.

“£230 may not be a lot for Labour councillors living in homes that they own but it is a great deal for some of the people they and I represent.”

During the debate council leader – and Mr Gummer’s challenger at the next general election – David Ellesmere had defended the rise and launched a stinging attack on his Tory critics.

He said: “We are following the guidelines of a Conservative and Liberal Democrat government, and those parties are attacking us.

“The recommended rise is being lowered next year, and we shall go along with that. We would have gone along with that if it had been recommended this year, but it wasn’t.”

He pointed out that both Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils, which are both led by Conservatives, are putting up their rents by a much higher rate than Ipswich.

“And during their last year in administration here the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats put up rents by 6.4%. They really cannot have it both ways,” he added.

The council decided to put up its rents for 8,200 tenants across the town – although most will not have to pay the full increase.

Only about a third of its tenants pay the full rent, the remainder receive housing benefit which goes towards the cost of their rents.

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