By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Mansfield District Council has become the third authority in Nottinghamshire to increase rent for its tenants – with some to pay more than £300 extra next year.
The council will raise rent in all its properties by 4.1 per cent from April – reflective of new Government guidance and identical to the rise being imposed by neighbouring Newark and Sherwood and Ashfield councils.
The announcement came as part of the authority’s budget proposals approved during the full council meeting on Tuesday (January 25).
The council has since provided further detail on the increase, with residents on 48-week social home contracts to pay between £2.46 and £4.68 more per week from April.
This will take the average social rent to £84.21 per week, with the worst-affected tenants to see bills increasing by as much as £224.64 per year.
The increase for the affordable rental homes will range from £3.08 to £5.85, taking the average affordable rent to £125.15 per week including services with the worst-affected tenants seeing a £304.20 annual increase.
And shared ownership rental increases will range from 70p to £2.55 per week, taking the average shared ownership rent to £26.32 per week. The worst affected people in these homes will pay £132.60 more annually.
The council states rents are calculated for individual addresses, with increases to average within the ranges it has provided.
The policy led to some criticism of the Labour administration when councillors met on Tuesday.
Councillor Roger Sutcliffe (Mans Ind), who represents Lindhurst ward, said: “Although recommended by the Government, this is excessive given the current climate where vulnerable people are struggling to make ends meet.
“I know most [tenants] are on Universal Credit and get their rent paid, but many of them fall just outside this threshold. A three per cent rise maximum would have been my recommendation.”
Cllr Barry Answer (Mans Ind), who represents Abbott, added: “At the moment, the council’s rent arrears are £1,073,000, and the 4.1 per cent rise will probably increase this arrears.”
And Cllr June Stendall (Ind), who represents Grange Farm, called for the council to outline support measures on offer for struggling tenants.
She said: “I’m not in favour of putting up the housing rent, but as it’s come from the government, there’s very little we can do to argue about it.
“I’m struggling to find where residents can find additional help with the bills. I’ve been searching myself this past week or so, and if there’s anything that can be changed for this in the future, it would be useful.”
Speaking following the meeting, Cllr Marion Bradshaw (Lab), the council’s portfolio holder for housing, said many tenants will receive financial support with the rise through either housing benefit or Universal Credit.
And she said the council works with specialist financial support officers who can offer residents help if they are struggling with their bills given the ongoing “cost of living crisis”.
She added: “Nearly three-quarters of our tenants receive full or partial support with their rent.
“The council has increased rents in accordance with the Government’s policy guidelines, which is necessary in order to balance the Housing Revenue Account.
“However, for a long time now, the council has employed specialist financial inclusion officers who will offer advice and support on budgeting, welfare benefits and debt management.”
The new rental fees were approved by councillors during the Housing Revenue Account budget setting, with 22 votes in favour, 10 against and two abstentions.