Council house rent increases set for Ipswich and East Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 12:11 01 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:14 01 January 2020
Council house tenants in Ipswich could be hit with higher than expected rent rises next year, it has emerged.
A proposal for a 2.7% increase in rent is expected to be agreed by Ipswich Borough Council's executive next week, meaning the average weekly rent will rise by an additional £2.17 to £82.42 per week.
According to government rules, a rent increase at properties owned by local authorities must be capped at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) +1%.
The CPI rate is currently 1.7%, meaning 2.7% is the maximum possible rise.
Neil MacDonald, Labour's portfolio holder for housing at Ipswich Borough Council, said: "Over the past four years we have had to reduce rents to '16/'17 levels.
"We also have costs going up, so we have had to cover that.
"This will allow the future housebuilding but it's also about maintenance."
Mr MacDonald said there were costs for repairs to council homes, as well as upgrades such as solar panels, boilers and kitchen and bathrooms.
The changes will boost the borough council's coffers by nearly £1million next year, according to its forecast data - and up to £3.7m in four years time based on current estimates.
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But Ian Fisher, leader of the opposition Conservative group, branded the move "callous".
He said: "It is no surprise to see the Labour group at IBC intends to raise council rents by the maximum permitted by the government, just like the national party they seem to have forgotten to represent the working class in our community.
"Times are tough for most people, especially those most vulnerable, and this increase is unfair and totally unnecessary.
"I can understand the rent increasing by the rate of inflation but there is no need for the extra rise when there are council tenants being pressured to accept a new boiler, regardless of whether their current boiler is working perfectly.
"Our policy would be to not charge the additional 1% but to reduce the annual spend on maintenance as it is easy to prove that money is being wasted on upgrades that are just not needed."
East Suffolk is also expected to up its council house rent at its cabinet meeting next week, although that will be at a marginally slimmer 2.3% rise.
According to the report prepared for the meeting, that will mean an average weekly rent of £84.95 from April, compared to the current £83.05.
The council lets 4,400 properties.
East Suffolk's Conservative cabinet member for housing, Richard Kerry, said: "This is the first increase for tenants in five years, following a 1% rent reduction each year for the past four years.
"This increase will generate an additional income of approximately £430,000 which will enable us to build more affordable homes across the district and help maintain and improve our existing housing stock."
Peter Byatt, leader of the opposition Labour group, said it was important rent levels were assessed in line with other costs such as council tax and energy charges, as well as inflation figures.