Councillors who are set to decide next year’s council house rent levels in January will find their freedom to manoeuvre limited by complex national rules on public sector rents.
A joint meeting of Wigan Council’s cabinet and overview and scrutiny committee tomorrow, 14 December, will consider the rise in the light of government guidelines aimed at bringing rents for council properties more in line with those of housing associations.
Housing chiefs say the borough’s traditionally low rents are being forced to rise faster than inflation in order to achieve the government’s rent restructuring target for social housing. If followed, the government guidelines would lead to a 5% rise, raising the average rent for 2007/2008 by £2.72 to £57.10 per week.
Wigan Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Protection, Councillor Keith Cunliffe, commented:
“Our options are limited and government guidelines effectively dictate rent levels. This position could have been worse. The guidelines originally proposed an increase of 7%, but fortunately the government has capped it to 5%.
“If we decided to reduce the increase by £1 per week we would have to cut £1 million from the housing service. Since repairs are the biggest expenditure we would probably have to cut that service. We know tenants want repairs doing quickly so we end up with no real option but to increase rents in line with government policy.”
Ashley Crumbley, chief executive of Wigan and Leigh Housing, said:
“For years we under invested in public services. Things have changed and the council houses, estates and housing service have been transformed. We know that we are about average on cost of providing housing services com pared to others in the country, yet we are emerging as one of the top performers with overall tenant satisfaction levels of 84%.
“We continue to have a strong demand for council housing and people on the waiting list are telling me that our rents are much lower than housing associations and the private rented sector. However, I remain unhappy with the national rent restructuring policy.”
Note to Editors
For information, please contact Ashley Crumbley, Wigan & Leigh Housing on 01942 486507.