Rent rise for council house improvements questioned - The Rugby Observer

Rent rise for council house improvements questioned

Rugby Editorial 19th Feb, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016   0

COUNCIL housing rents in Rugby will go up by an average of £93 a year to pay for improvements to make them cheaper to heat – despite claims from a borough councillor that it could have been done without raising prices.

A programme to replace council houses’ windows and doors, update central heating systems and connect homes to the gas main has been approved by Rugby Borough Council.

Rents will rise by the consumer prices index plus one per cent from April 1 to pay for the improvements, in line with government guidance – meaning an average weekly rent rise of £1.80.

But Labour group leader and parliamentary candidate Coun Claire Edwards said a rent freeze would have been affordable without shelving the improvement programme.

She said: “Instead of spending £10.6million on window replacement, we could have used £320,000 to allow for a rent freeze and still spend £10.3million on window replacement over the next three years.

“An average rent increase of £1.80 per week may sound reasonable, but we had a one-off one-year chance to freeze both rents and council tax.

“Too many council tenants are facing hard times after years of horrendously high rents well in excess of inflation, and a freeze would have made a real difference.”

But Liberal Democrat Coun Bill Lewis, ward councillor for Rokeby and Overslade, said it was good news that the improvements would be carried out.

“I have been campaigning ever since I was elected in 2010 for tenants in Overslade to have gas central heating installed. Tenants I have spoken to who have already had their heating systems upgraded have been very pleased with the result.

“The rent increase should be more than compensated for by the energy savings which the tenants should be able to make due to the improvements to the heating systems and to the replacement of doors and windows.”

Borough council communities spokeswoman Coun Leigh Hunt said: “With energy bills now making up a much higher proportion of tenants’ income it is important that we do everything we can to help our residents to keep warm.

“These works will make more than a third of our properties warmer and cheaper to heat this year, with all of them completed in the next three years. However, I do understand that any increase in rent will be unwelcome.

“We have put in place measures to help tenants who may be finding it hard to pay their rent, for whatever reason, and any tenant who needs that support can call the housing team on (01788) 533822.”

The new improvements programme – which was originally planned to take 12 years – means all 1100 council homes in the regeneration areas of Overslade and Brownsover will have their windows and doors replaced by March 2016, with the remainder completed over the following two years.

20 homes will have their gas central heating systems replaced, while 170 will be connected to the gas main for the first time. The roofs of the multi-story blocks at Rounds Gardens and Biart Place will also be replaced, giving the upper floors better insulation.

In addition, more than 200 homes will get new bathrooms, and nearly 150 will get new kitchens in a £5 million programme.


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