Hammersmith & FulhamNews

Rent rises in Hammersmith and Fulham ‘inevitable’ this year, says town hall

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

There is a ‘reluctant acceptance’ among residents that council house rent will have to go up if services are to be maintained, a council officer has said.

Hammersmith and Fulham council is looking to up its rent for social tenants by the maximum allowed for the year ahead, with an increase in service charges also being proposed.

The local authority has however said it expects to balance its Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget for 2024/25, a feat Danny Rochford, head of finance for the council’s Economy and HRA service, has described as ‘a milestone achievement’.

This is after a deficit of £3.6 million for 2023/24, and £4.1m for 2022/23.

The council is in the midst of putting its budget proposals before each of its Policy and Accountability Committees (PACs), ahead of it going to cabinet and then full council at the end of February for final approval.

An area with notably low tax, Hammersmith and Fulham is proposing to hike council tax by 4.99 per cent, the maximum allowed, for 2024/25.

It is also looking to increase its average rent for social tenants by 7.7 per cent from April – equivalent to roughly £9.62 per week, and the average service charge by £3.18 a week.

There are however some reductions included in the plans, namely for heating and hot water, which are to drop by an average of 41p a week for communal use, and £1.87 for personal use.

Speaking at a housing and homelessness policy and accountability committee meeting earlier this week, at which the HRA budget was presented, Mr Rochford said: “The majority of those charges are increasing in line with inflation. There are two exceptions where the increase will be more significant. That’s caretaking and communal lighting.”

Sukvinder Kalsi, strategic director of finance at the council, added that there is a wide range of support for tenants, including housing benefit, and that a social tenancy remains ‘worth its weight in gold’. This is due to benefits such as the security social homes provide, and their cost, which is on average about a third of private rent.

“What the council is trying to do…is to make sure that long term this very, very important resource, for 12,000 homes, one in six people in the borough in my estimate live in a council house, that is protected for the future for them,” he said.

Cllr Jacolyn Daly, chairwoman of the committee, asked officers how the proposed budget had been received by housing forums it had been presented to.

Mr Rochford replied: “I think that there is an acceptance and an understanding that we are still living through a cost of living crisis [that also] affects councils that are having to deliver services, so I think there is a reluctant acceptance that these are increases that have to happen.”

Picture: Pixabay

 

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