Council house rents in Denbigshire set to increase by five percent
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
Council house residents in Denbighshire could face a 5% increase in rent – and working families are set to be worst hit.
Denbighshire County Council’s cabinet decided today to up rent and admitted that the 28% of council residents in employment would be worst affected.
The cabinet met to discuss the report, setting out the rent increase and the housing revenue account capital and revenue budgets for 2023/24, as well as the council’s housing stock business plan.
The cabinet members considered the report and voted in favour of council house rents increasing by 5% in accordance with the Welsh Government policy for social housing.
Should Denbighshire’s full council back the cabinet’s plans, the increase will come into effect from Monday, April 3, 2023.
Council officer Geoff Davies admitted it was a difficult decision for cabinet members. “Rent setting is always a challenging issue, but this year with the high inflation and the impact that this has had on households with the cost-of-living crisis, it is much more challenging than usual, and at the time we are asking you to make this decision, there is very cold weather and extremely high energy bills,” he said.
“And I think this cost-of-living crisis has been brought home to everybody, but we know it is particularly felt by the poorer households in the county.”
Council officers then explained there were over 2,100 people on the council house waiting list and that the cash-strapped authority needed to upgrade council homes and build new ones.
The maximum increase allowed by Welsh Government was a 6.5% increase.
The decision to only increase rents by 5% and not 6.5% will cost Denbighshire £250,000 for the first year or £1m over the next four years.
Council leader Cllr Jason McLellan said: “We have to have a balance between having a healthy housing revenue account so we can meet our commitment to our tenants, so they can have decent homes, that we can invest in housing stock, but we need to balance that against keeping a rent increase below inflation, below the maximum (6.5%) so that it impacts the least on the tenants who are facing tough times at the moment.”
Denbighshire’s council officers said residents who could not pay would not be evicted but admitted the 28% of council house tenants in work (not receiving benefits) would be worst affected.
Deputy leader Gill German said she had considered the options carefully, admitting there was a greater range of benefits and financial support available to people receiving benefits than those in work.
“From my own position, I’ve spent an awful lot of time thinking about this,” she said.
“We spent a long time speaking about it at cabinet briefing. I’ve read the report several times. I’ve read the appendix. I’ve listened very carefully to what has been said today, and I am satisfied that due care and attention has been given to finding that balance by reading the report and listening.
“It is with a heavy heart because we are aware the cost of living will be having an impact on all our residents, and it is our working residents that will be bearing the brunt of this because they are the ones caught in the middle.
“A lot of the things that are available to the 72% (of people living in council houses receiving benefits), they are not there; however, I’m very encouraged by the level of support that is offered by our housing team. That does encourage me that we will be able to put the support in place wherever possible.”
She added: “It’s very difficult because we have people in rental in the private sector who that (private rental accommodation) isn’t the most suitable housing for them, so I really want to see our housing stock increased and the quality of it increased – fuel efficiency (and better insulation of homes).
“On the whole I’m in support of what’s put forward here; however, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at it, and it is with a heavy heart.”
But Cllr Julie Matthews was dissatisfied with the data councillors were provided with in the report.
“We did ask for more detail, some more detailed reports, and that isn’t forthcoming here,” she said.
“We asked for more options, such (as data on increases of) 3%, 4%, 4.5%, but I can’t see anything in the report with that amount of detail in.”
Council officers then apologised for the missing information.
The final report will now be considered by Denbighshire’s full council.
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