Council Tenants to Be Hit By Higher Rents and Charges

Big increases proposed for accommodation and heating

Wandsworth Town Hall

February 1, 2023

Wandsworth Council has revealed plans to hike rents and more than triple bills as high inflation hits the authority’s budget. The borough has said cost of living measures are in place to help locals struggling to pay rent.

Council housing rents would increase by 7 per cent from 3 April if the proposals for the 2023/24 financial year are approved. Charges for heating and hot water from the council’s communal boilers would also increase by 270pc from April under the plans – an average increase from £6.28 to £22.67 a week.

The council said two-thirds of tenants already have their rent covered by benefits and added that the rent increase would be below inflation, the rise in benefits and the rise in private rents.

The authority also said gas prices from its energy supplier LASER have increased by an average of 270pc for council buildings since October 2022 – which the proposed increase in the heating and hot water charges from the communal boiler systems for 2023/24 would match.

A council report says, “Following the removal of the fuel credit from November 2022, and based on current estimates for 2022/23, the forecast deficit on the heating and hot water account at the end of the current financial year is £1.669 million.

“It is therefore proposed to increase charges effective from April 2023 by 270%. This equates to an increase in average charges from £6.28 per week to £22.67 per week. Despite this increase the deficit on the heating and hot water account is still expected to increase by the end of 2023/24 to £3.360 million. It will then be necessary to carry forward a deficit on the heating and hot water account, which will then be recovered over several years.”

The council operates 50 communal boiler schemes which supply centralised heating and hot water to 3,453 households in estates across the borough. The authority said the charge impacts 1pc of total residents in the borough.

Non-residential charges are also proposed to increase by 7pc – including those for garages, parking lots and store sheds.

Labour councillor Aydin Dikerdem, cabinet member for housing, said, “Inflation and the huge rise in prices has posed a real challenge to the housing department. But the proposed below inflation rise will enable Wandsworth to meet its costs, as well as improving and expanding a high-quality and responsive service for our tenants, and support the investment in more estate managers and the delivery of much needed new council housing for our borough.

“We are acutely aware of the impact the current cost of living crisis is having on our tenants and residents and we will continue to provide support, including financial support, to those in most need.”

The proposals were endorsed by the council’s housing committee on 24 January and will now pass to a vote of the full council on 8th February.

The Conservative opposition says it will vote against the rise and points out that Labour pledged to freeze rents this year during the May 2022 elections.

Cllr Kim Caddy, the Deputy Leader of the Wandsworth Conservative said, “With rising consumer bills and inflation eating into family budgets, it’s astonishing they would propose hiking rents by 7% for council tenants.

“We know the cost-of-living crisis is hitting many residents hard.

“Last year, under a Conservative administration, we froze rents. This year, we are proposing to do the same – a move that would deliver a real terms rent cut for council tenants two years running.

“Now isn’t the time for rent rises. Wandsworth Conservatives have a real plan for cutting rents
while continuing to invest in estate upgrades and critical services for local people."

Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter