Call to curb rises in rent

Coun Penny Baker, Sheffield Council
Coun Penny Baker, Sheffield Council
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Campaigners are urging Sheffield Council to rethink plans to increase its housing rents by more than 6 per cent.

Under proposals announced by the Labour-controlled authority this week, cash-strapped tenants would see the average bill increase by 6.2 per cent – £216 – next year.

However, opposition Liberal Democrats have temporarily blocked the plan by ‘calling it in’ –meaning it will not be implemented until further public consideration.

The council has claimed its hands are tied by national guidelines, but other authorities in England have defied recommendations – the Lib Dem-controlled Portsmouth Council in Hampshire has increased housing rent by just half of what was suggested.

Sheffield Lib Dem members have joined tenants and residents associations in calling for the city’s council to do the same.

Coun Penny Baker, opposition housing member, said:“We urge the council to follow other authorities and keep rent increases to a minimum to ease the cost of living for tenants.

“Labour bosses have attempted to claim they have no choice over this, but that’s plainly not true.

“With the housing revenue budget set to run at a surplus and service costs increasing to more than 
£50 million, there is scope to curb the increase. Yet councillors want to push through an average rise of £216. Many people will simply not be able to afford to pay.”

Stephen Rich, of Greenhill & Bradway TARA, said: “If the council had been willing to accept the various grants offered by the Government, it would be under less pressure when raising rents.”

However, Labour members accused the Lib Dems of double standards.

Coun Harry Harpham, cabinet member for homes, said: “The Lib Dems know the Government effectively sets the rent increase.

“The last time the Lib Dems set council rents in 2011 they went up by 6.8 per cent and Coun Baker said she had no choice because rents are set by the Government.

“The Lib Dems know this.”