For the third consecutive year, Salford Council is set to increase social housing rents way above inflation. In 2012-13 rents rose by 7.62%. In 2013-14 they rose by 4.55%. Now, for 2014-15 they are set to rise by a further 5.13%, or by £3.64 per week.
Service charges are also set to rise by 83p a week (4.43%) in high rise flats and 13p per week (2.31%) in low rise properties, meaning residents in high rise blocks will pay an extra £19.37 a month altogether, or almost £20.
It's all part of the continuing `rent convergence' policy brought in by the previous government to bring all social housing rents in line. According to the Salford Council report, Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart could put a cap on the rent increase of 5% - but he is unlikely to do this as "the impact would be a loss in rental income of £5.8m (including inflation) over the 30 year HRA business plan".
This latter statement is very strange because Salford Council is planning to privatise its social housing in 2015 by transferring its stock to Salix Homes, with a ballot to take place amongst residents later this year – although a campaign called Defend Council Housing has been launched to oppose the move.
The hike in rent and service charges comes on top of Bedroom Tax misery and a further cut in Council Tax benefits agreed by Salford Council last week, meaning that some of the very poorest people in the city will have to pay 12.5% of their Council Tax, rather than the current 8.5%.
The total affect is that people just cannot afford to pay all these costs, with Salford Council acknowledging this by setting aside £1million as "a contribution to the bad debt provision…due to welfare reform changes".
Meanwhile, hard up social housing tenants will be pleased to know, we're sure, that, just when they need it most, the Council is also proposing to make huge cuts to its Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Team (more on this to follow). And that an extra £233,000 was spent on legal and financial consultants working on the Pendleton Together PFI scheme, which is to take over lots of currently owned Council housing, with consultancy costs rising from an original £437,000 to £770,000…And that, according to the latest Salix accounts, its Chief Executive got a £4,000 pay increase, taking his salary to £104,000...