Rent rise of 7 per cent planned for council house tenants in the Babergh area

Council house tenants in the Babergh area are set to face a rise in their rent payments by 7 per cent which would result in average weekly increases of £6.68 a week from £95.47 to £102.15.

A report due to be considered by Babergh District’s cabinet next month, outlines the scale of the financial pressure on the council as a result of global events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, plus rising inflation and interest rates.

The figures show how the council’s net cost of delivering services is set to increase by almost 20 per cent from £10.43 million in 2022/3 to £12.45m in 2023/24, while the cost of running and maintaining the council’s housing stock has already increased by 50 per cent.

Savings and investment income are helping to balance the books, but the proposals also include a 2.99 per cent increase to council tax – the equivalent of £5.30 a year, or 10p a week for a Band D property.

Babergh leader John Ward said: “We face a challenging balancing act. We need to tackle rural isolation and improve access to services for our communities and support the economic growth of our towns and high streets – whilst also continuing to invest in new social housing and improving the energy efficiency of our existing council homes. The council is not immune to rising costs, so must find a way of funding these vital services without placing unreasonable burden on our residents.

“Thankfully, prudent investments and financial management over recent years, mean that we are still able to deliver a balanced budget, without reneging on our promises to the people of Babergh.”

Under the proposals, council tenants would see a 7 per cent increase in rents to try to keep pace with increased costs and to ensure the necessary investment in repairs and maintenance across the council’s social housing stock.

This would mean average weekly social rent increasing by £6.68 a week from £95.47 to £102.15.  For affordable housing, weekly rents would increase by £9.41 from £134.39 to £143.80.

David Busby, cabinet member for finance for Babergh District Council, said: “Any decision to put up council tax and rents is not one we take lightly, particularly when people are already feeling the squeeze and having to make tough financial decisions. It is, however, testament to the stability of our finances that we have been able to propose a balanced budget despite the economic turbulence and rising costs that we face.”

The council has also agreed additional help for those in most financial need, with a council tax reduction of up to 100 per cent for residents with the lowest incomes and a simplification of the existing Council Tax Reduction Scheme for residents on Universal Credit.

Members of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee have already had the chance to review the budget ahead of the final recommendation going to cabinet on February 6.

Following cabinet, the proposed budget will go before Full Council on February 20.  Any changes to council tax or rents would then take affect from April 1.

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