Council rent rise cap plea

SHEFFIELD Council is writing to housing minister Grant Shapps to protest about plans to hike council housing rents by more than double the rate of inflation.

Coun Penny Baker, cabinet member for housing, said she believes the 6.8 per cent increase - compared with the 3.3 per cent rate of inflation - is unreasonable at a time when city residents are feeling the pinch from the recession. Her letter comes after the Lib Dem administration drew criticism from opposition councillors and tenants' groups for announcing the rise.

She said the increase, due from April, has been forced upon the council by the Government partly due to inflation but mainly as part of a policy, launched by the old Labour Government and continued by the coalition, that council rents should increase so they are on a level with those charged by housing associations.

In her letter to Mr Shapps, Coun Baker said: "Whilst I recognise that those in greatest need would continue to have rent paid through benefit, in the current economic climate we believe that any rent rise should be kept to an absolute minimum.

"I am requesting you rethink the proposed rent increase and consider placing a cap, so any increase is not above inflation."

Last year, all parties on Sheffield Council slammed the then Labour Government for forcing a 3.6pc increase in rents, which was also above the rate of inflation at the time.

Coun Chris Weldon, Labour housing spokesman said: "This is a disgrace. In the current economic climate our local tenants cannot afford this massive increase, especially given the recent hike in VAT. Labour will be fighting this all the way."

Green Party leader, Coun Jillian Creasy, said: "The rise will be very hard for most council tenants."

Ken Curran, chairman of Manor Community Forum - an area with both Sheffield Council and housing association properties - said: "We do not yet know what the housing association rents will go up by. I am against the level of the council rent increase, which will hit tenants when they can least afford it. We are being affected by many other cuts."

Residents whose rents are paid through housing benefit will continue to have all their rent covered so will be unaffected.

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