COUNCILLORS clashed over who is to blame for rocketing rent.
Kirklees Council’s Cabinet yesterday (Tuesday) approved a 5.75% increase in council house rent. Latest figures show inflation is running at just 0.9%.
From April 6 the average weekly rent will rise from £59.07 to £62.47.
The new Labour-Lib Dem Cabinet claimed the steep rent rise had been forced on Kirklees by central Government.
But Conservative Clr Liz Smaje – who was responsible for housing until the Tories lost power last month – claimed the Cabinet could have done more to help vulnerable tenants.
She told yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) meeting: “I understand that the 5.75% increase is the result of a Government directive but these are extraordinary economic times. Why is there no help for tenants?”
Clr Smaje went on to criticise the Labour-Lib Dem Cabinet for increasing management and heating charges in sheltered housing by 5%.
She said: “Tenants in sheltered housing now face a 5.75% rise in their rent and a 5% increase in their service charges. Why are the charges going up so much?”
But Clr Shabir Pandor, the new Cabinet member responsible for housing, claimed Clr Smaje had decided on the increases when she was in charge.
The Labour man said: “Liz Smaje has actually scrutinised this report previously. I really don’t understand why she’s coming forward at this stage because she must have spent a lot of time previously setting this budget.”
The Cabinet then unanimously approved the increases.
Average weekly charges for sheltered housing management will go up from £9.94 to £10.44 while heating at a sheltered bedsit will rise from £7.21 to £7.57.
Average weekly garage rent will rise from £4.10 to £4.30 and parking spaces from £3.52 to £3.70.
Concierge charges go up from £11.16 to £11.70 while caretakers charges rise from £5 to £5.25 a week. Charges for communal cleaning will increase from a maximum of £3.46 a week to a maximum of £3.63 a week.
Last week the council’s deputy leader Clr Kath Pinnock said the rent increase of 5.75% had been forced on Kirklees by Westminster.
The Lib Dem said that the Government had a long-term plan to drive up council tax rents to bring them in line with rent in the private sector.
Clr Pinnock claimed that councils which refused to bring in the Government’s high rent rises would have their housing budgets cut.
The 5.75% rise, which comes into force on April 6, will be the steepest increase in recent years.
In 2006/07 rent went up by an average of 3.9% followed by 4.9% the next year and 4.7% in 2008/09.