Increase in housing rent adds to the ‘squeeze’ put on vulnerable

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A FOUR per cent hike in housing rent is yet another squeeze on the vulnerable, according to Lib Dem leader Douglas McCall.

The council met on Wednesday night to discuss the Housing Revenue Account Budget for 2013-14 to 2016/17.

Councillor Douglas McCall

Councillor Douglas McCall

It was proposed that average rent for tenants be increased by four per cent. The increase in rent equates to around £3.26 a week, and up to £84.72 per week.

A similar increase would come in too for service charges, garage rents and shared ownership rents. Rent for those in shared ownership schemes would rise, on average, by £2.98 to £77.56 per week.

The Housing Revenue Account is a ring-fenced account which is used for income and expenditure relating to the provision of council housing.

Since the introduction of the Housing Self-Financing regime in April 2012, the council has taken on £170.4 million of debt from the government in exchange for not paying future Housing Subsidy.

The decision comes just a month after the administration agreed an increase in council tax of around £14 per month.

Lib Dem leader Councillor Douglas McCall said: “It is really concerning. With council tax going up as well, the most vulnerable are being squeezed from every angle.

“After council taxes were increased last month, and with people unlikely to be given a similar pay rise in their jobs, it leaves us very concerned.”

But Councillor Peter Geary, cabinet member for Communities, Corporate Services and Transformation admitted it was not an easy decision to increase the rent.

“We are proposing exactly the same increase as we proposed last year,” he said. “It is not an easy decision to increase rent. But the raise will allow us to build new council houses and maintain and repair the existing ones too.”

Labour Councillor Steve Coventry added: “It’s a shame that at this time, with the economy the way it is, that we are even discussing an increase in rent for the poorest in Milton Keynes, especially when the most vulnerable are now expected to pay 20 per cent council tax, won’t be getting a pay rise to match inflation and now this.

“I’m sure my colleagues in the Conservative party don’t want to do this, but they have been lumbered with this debt from national government that we now have to manage.”