By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Some opposition councillors have raised concerns about Mansfield District Council hiking its tenants’ rents by seven per cent from April.
The Labour-run authority has approved its housing revenue account (HRA) budget for the 2023/24 financial year as it balances its books until 2026.
The wider budget included a now-approved council tax freeze, as well as millions of pounds in capital investments for major projects.
All councillors on the authority met on Tuesday (January 24) and unanimously approved the council tax freeze, the general budget for services and the capital spending.
But three councillors voted against the HRA budget amid plans to increase tenants’ bills.
The seven per cent rise follows standard Government recommendations on rent increases, which are usually capped in line with inflation plus an extra percentage point.
However, due to the current 40-year high inflation of about 11 per cent, ministers opted to introduce a seven per cent cap to take the rise away from struggling families.
Labour-run Mansfield District Council opted to go with the seven per cent cap and the budget was approved by 26 votes to three.
It means the average 48-week social rent contract will increase by about £5.90 per week or £306.80 over the length of the contract.
The average affordable rent contract will also increase by about £8.76 according to last year’s figures, or about £455.55 per year.
These figures could be lower or higher depending on the rental contract and price already agreed with the council in the previous financial year.
Last year, the authority implemented a 4.1 per cent increase – again in line with Government recommendations at the time.
It has led to two opposition councillors voicing their concerns that the rise will impact some of Mansfield’s poorest households.
Councillor Martin Wright (Mans Ind), who represents the Holly ward, voted against the HRA plans.
In the meeting, he said: “I find it very difficult to square off [the council tax freeze] when the council rents are going up by seven per cent.
“I know it’s a Government recommendation but I find it hard to accept residents of Mansfield will save about £2 or £3 a year [on their council tax] but rents are going up by seven per cent, which amounts to far more than that.”
Cllr Rob Elliman (Con), who represents Oakham, also voted against the HRA plans and said: “On social rents increases, where is this going?
“It’s certainly safe to say the number of properties that have been built over the past four years has been extremely low.
“So how is this rent increase fair on the low-income residents of Mansfield?”
But Cllr Craig Whitby (Lab), cabinet member for finance, defended the rise and said it is still below the current levels of inflation.
He added only about a quarter of the tenants will feel the rise as the majority are covered by housing benefits or Universal Credit.
He said: “The HRA is showing a balanced position. If we didn’t put rents up by an inflationary amount – which is much higher than seven per cent – we’d be running at a deficit in the future.
“We’ve got a legal requirement to balance the HRA account.
“It’s in line with Government recommendations like we follow every year, we’re still going to be pushed to maintain our rental properties without that extra income and with the inflationary pressures.
“It’s worth noting this will only affect about 25 per cent of our residents, with most on income benefits, housing benefits or Universal Credit.”