Hucknall council tenants to pay £150 more in rent as council approves increase across the Ashfield district

Council tenants in Hucknall will pay, on average £150, more in rent per year as Ashfield District Council looks to shore up its housing finances.

By Andrew Topping
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 1:06 pm

The authority’s cabinet approved the rise, which will come in from April, during a meeting on January 25.

It means all council tenant rents will go up by 4.1 per cent compared with the previous year.

Other Nottinghamshire councils including Newark & Sherwood District Council have also said they plan to put up council home rent.

Ashfield District Council has approved a rent rise for all council tenants in Hucknall and across the district

Ashfield’s rise comes as councillors were warned the authority’s housing revenue account (HRA) – the pool of money which comes in from rents and is used to maintain and improve homes – risks becoming ‘unviable by about 2034’ if Government support and extra funding isn’t acquired for future investment.

Reports published ahead of the meeting forecast the HRA’s balance will shrink from £41.6 million to £25.2 million between now and March 2026.

The report states this could be the result of a freeze on rents, increased management and maintenance costs, the use of longer-term reserves, or rental income being lower than forecast.

Coun Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), leader of the authority, said last week that, without the rental increase, the HRA would be left in a ‘precarious position’.

The rise, alongside a 4.1 per cent increase in garage rents and a five per cent rise in communal heating bills, will be used to shore up the account, invest in new properties and provide ‘much-needed’ works to existing homes.

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It follows consultation with residents living in the properties which found overwhelming support for a rise in bills to fund the improvements, with works to focus on windows, roofs, heating, cleaning and security.

Under the increase, council tenants will pay the authority on average £78.93 per week over a 48-week period – £3.11 more than last year and just shy of £150 annually.

The increases follow a five-year freeze on rents imposed by the Government, which has now been lifted.

Coun John Wilmott (Ash Ind), cabinet member for licensing, environmental health and regulatory services, who represents Hucknall North, welcomed the rise.

He said: “We’re not being excessive in any of the decisions we’re making, and 71.8 per cent of council tenants receive assistance in paying for their rent so won’t be paying it themselves anyway.

“We’re progressing and doing a good job for the community.”

Rent for garages in the district will also rise by the same rate, with the authority expecting to generate £10,000 on the currently-occupied sites.

Under this increase, Band A garages will rise by 27p to £6.82, Band B garages by 30p to £7.62 and B and C garages by 33p to £8.42 each week.

And communal heating charges in council properties are also set for a five per cent rise from April this year.

This increase was supported by Paul Parkinson, the authority’s head of housing, who said the heating rise comes at a time when regular properties see their heating bills increase ‘by 50 per cent or more’.

Over the coming years, the council also plans to ensure all its housing stock meets eco-friendly, carbon-neutral criteria – a scheme that will fall in line with Government net-zero targets.

But Pete Hudson, corporate finance manager at the council, told the cabinet the authority will need financial support from the Government to make this happen – or risk the HRA becoming unviable.

He said: “Clearly there’s an aim to get to carbon-zero by 2050, but there are serious financial implications to doing that.

“Without any funding from Government, that would have a massive impact on the HRA and make it unviable, probably by about 2034.

“We’re still waiting for information from Government in terms of the expectations on councils, and whether there will be any funding associated with it.”