The council leader had already warned that tough decisions needed to be made
January 18, 2023
Council tenants in Hounslow borough could have their rents hiked and heating bills increased from April.
This Tuesday (17 January) it was revealed that people living in council homes will see their rent increase by 7 per cent under budget plans for the next financial year. Hounslow Council also wants to increase tenant service charges, district heating and garage rents.
Last week, the leader of Hounslow Council, Councillor Shantanu Rajawat, warned that “difficult” decisions would be made in the upcoming weeks. He said, “With inflation at a 40-year high and demand for many of our vital services never greater, we will inevitably have to make some very tough choices over the coming weeks. Whatever happens though, we must be financially responsible and make sure we can balance the books, while continuing to provide that safety net for those in need.”
Councillor Sue Sampson, cabinet member for housing management and homelessness added, “We have thought hard about these charges and changes, especially in the current economic situation. But we are required to ensure that estimated costs of delivering service are recovered and not subsidised by rents.
“At a time when we are facing service inflation costs above 10pc, managing with any below-inflation income will be a big challenge for the council especially to deliver our commitment to improving the quality of our estates and homes. But because we have been prudent in managing our HRA [Housing Revenue Account], we are well placed to deliver our commitments in our estates and homes.”
Under the plans, residents living in homes which are on a District Heating scheme will see their bills increase from April. District Heating Service charges could increase from an average of £6.23 per week to an average of £13.15 per week.
The council says that this is to ensure that rents are not subsidising the cost of tenants’ heating. Tenants using District Heating will be able to apply online for £400 of non-repayable help with their fuel bills from January 2023. Councillor Sampson confirmed that residents are being contacted to inform them of the financial help.
Cllr Rajawat said, “Whilst a vast number of our tenants will have this increase absorbed in their benefits, I think it is important to note that as a council we are very acutely aware that people are struggling out there and we want to help wherever we can so as well as sign-posting that specific scheme, any resident in hardship, any tenant in hardship should contact the council and seek advice so we can offer as much support we have available to them.”
Residents renting garages from the council will see costs rise by just over £1.50 per week. Leaseholders and private lets currently paying £21.70, will have to pay £23.22 from April, council tenants will see their weekly cost rise from £17.25 to £18.46.
The increase in charges come as the council commits to improving existing housing and building 1,000 new council homes. Over the next five years, Hounslow Council will embark on projects bringing new homes to Charlton House, Albany House, Hanworth Park House, Commerce Road and Convent Way.
Councillor Tom Bruce, the cabinet member for regeneration and development, said, “We don’t take these decisions lightly, we are all aware of the financial situation and the economic climate for everybody, councils, businesses, companies, and individuals. All the people living in our properties are going to be affected in some way by these changes, we are fully aware of that and acknowledge it.
“We need to ensure that we continue to invest in our estates and we continue to provide homes that people are proud to live in and areas that people want to be. Though these are difficult decisions it is the right one in this case.”
The cabinet committee agreed to the budget plans and they will be discussed by the council in the coming weeks.
Megan Stanley - Local Democracy Reporter