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Council condemned for pushing through rent increase

16 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Plaid Cymru councillor Ian Johnson

Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter

A council’s decision to increase council housing rent by almost 7% has been heavily criticised.

Vale of Glamorgan Council voted in favour of a 6.7% increase in council house rent at a special council meeting on Monday, 15 January.

Plaid Cymru and Conservative councillors raised concerns about the decision, saying it would hit residents hard in the pocket during a continued cost-of-living crisis.

The decision comes at a time when Vale of Glamorgan Council, like local authorities across the country, faces huge financial pressure in the form of a £7m budget gap caused by high inflation and rising demand on its services.

Leader of the Plaid Cymru group at Vale of Glamorgan Council, Councillor Ian Johnson, said he understood the arguments for increasing rents for some tenants, but added that he saw it as “morally wrong” to do so.

Speaking in Welsh, Cllr Johnson added: “Tonight, the Labour and Llantwit First cabinet are asking us to increase it by 6.7%, higher than last year’s increase of 5.5%.

“If the Tories asked for this combined increase of 12.2%, you would be furious… and this is in a cost-of-living crisis where wages are not keeping up with inflation.”

Leader of the council, Councillor Lis Burnett noted that council housing rents in the Vale of Glamorgan are markedly lower than those registered landlords that operate within the county.

It was also noted how council housing tenants in the Vale previously voted in favour of housing stock remaining in council hands, whereas stock in some other local authority areas has transferred to housing associations.

However, Cllr Johnson said that if tenants vote to stay with the council, the council “should be looking after them”.

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Similarly to when it raised rents last year, the council has reaffirmed its commitment to providing support for tenants who are experiencing financial hardship.

Cllr Burnett said there will be no evictions as a result of financial difficulties on condition that tenants engage with the council.

Leader of the Conservatives group, Councillor George Carroll, called the rise “another inflation-busting increase that residents are being asked to stump up”.

He said: “Let’s ask ourselves why this rise is necessary… it is down to a failure of leadership.

“The budget setting process requires strong leadership, but sadly this has been lacking.

“This Labour council’s failure to manage its housing revenue account efficiently… has resulted in the 6.7% rise.

“It is the latest in a long list of examples of this… council’s failings.”

The council’s cabinet member for public sector housing and tenant engagement, Councillor Sandra Perkes, said the money raised through the rent increase will go towards improving the energy efficiency of homes.

Cllr Perkes said: “If we look at the energy efficiencies that we are implementing, the roofing, the windows, the bathrooms, the kitchens… to make sure that the housing stock that we provide for our tenants is of the highest quality.

“Currently we are on Welsh Housing Quality Standards Level C. We have got in the future Welsh Housing Quality Standards A to implement which is really important.

“What this also does is it spends to save which is not just for the council itself, it is for the tenants.

“They actually will save money on the energy that they use by the high quality of the energy efficiency renewals that we make to the existing properties that we have and that does have to be paid for.”

Cllr Perkes went on to say that she “won’t take any lectures from the Conservatives group”, adding that the UK Government’s autumn statement “didn’t even mention… any extra money for local authorities”.

Cllr Perkes said: “We actually need to implement these changes for our tenants.”


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