Council house rent rise

COUNCIL house rents in Sheffield are set to rise by an average of almost seven per cent from April - more than double the rate of inflation.

Sheffield Council said the proposed 6.8 per cent rise - an average weekly increase of 3.97, or 206.44 a year - mirrored moves nationally to bring council house rents in line with the rents tenants pay to organisations such as housing associations.

The national rate of inflation, based on the most recent UK consumer price index figure from last November, currently stands at 3.3 per cent.

Last year council rents went up by only 3.6 per cent.

Councillor Penny Baker, Cabinet Member for Housing, said the level of rise was set nationally by Government.

But Andrew Woodhead, treasurer of the Hanover Tenants' and Residents' Association in Broomhall, told The Star: "Given the current economic climate I think rents at the very maximum should increase only by the rate of inflation - especially as most people's wages are certainly not going to go up by anything like that.

"A lot of our tenants are also pensioners on fixed incomes who are going to have to find this money from somewhere. This is going to make life very difficult for them.

"It may be government policy, out of the council's hands, but I don't agree with it."

Mick Daniels, chairman of Brushes TARA which covers Firth Park, said: "I'm not happy about it, to put it bluntly. It's going to add to the hardship people have at the moment, with all the VAT increases and everything - it's just going to add to it. It's going to test people's pockets.

"I will need to sit down and work out what impact it's going to have. No doubt once people find out about it I'll start getting feedback from tenants. They're not going to be very happy either.

"I would have expected something like three per cent. Seven per cent doesn't sound a lot, but when you're only on a low income or on benefits it will be a lot. It's going to be a big chunk of money."

Coun Baker said: "It has been the case for a number of years that Government effectively sets the rent increase. However, on the things we do control we have been able to ease the financial pressure as much as possible."

She said the community heating charge will drop by 10 per cent - but only 6,000 of the city's 42,000 council homes are warmed by community heating.

Service charges for furnished accommodation, city wide alarms, temporary accommodation and burglar alarms have all been frozen.

Tenants' and Residents' Associations will be consulted on the proposals at a meeting of the City Wide Forum next Wednesday. The changes are subject to approval by the council's cabinet on January 26.

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