Rent hikes for new Greenwich council tenants could lead to next-door neighbours being charged different rates, say councillors

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter

Concerns that neighbours living next door to one another in council housing could be charged different rents have been raised.

Greenwich council’s cabinet approved plans to bump rents up by up to 6.7 per cent for new tenants moving into council properties, in a move which saw the opposition accuse the Labour majority of exploiting a “loophole”.

Cllr Spencer Drury, the Conservative spokesman for housing, reiterated earlier concerns he had raised in the media at the meeting.

“I have some serious concerns about aspects of this report, and I urge members to postpone it,” he said.

He said a February full council meeting had seen members agree on a 2.7 per cent rise – adding there was “no mention of any prospect of this happening in February”.

He added it was “not right for cabinet to push through” the proposal, saying it would “substantially” raise rents for five per cent of tenants.

“It seems to me if you put forward this proposal, people living next door to each other may be paying different levels of rent, which doesn’t seem right or fair,” he said.

Greenwich’s director of housing said the policy would impact about 3.5 per cent of the council’s 21,000 households, with about 780 re-lets expected a year.

He added the move could be “accommodated within the overall approach agreed at council in February,” and was “not intended to lack any degree of member scrutiny”.

This was further backed by the council’s director of legal services, John Scarborough, who said he was satisfied the proposal could be decided by cabinet due to the “extremely small scale” of tenants who would be impacted.

Cabinet member for housing, Anthony Okereke, told the meeting that “council rents are key for bringing an income to maintaining our housing stock and building new homes”.

Ahead of the meeting, Cllr Okereke had said there would be support for tenants on housing benefit or universal credit.

“Our proposals will be covered by the Local Housing Allowance, which means that for those on full housing benefit or universal credit there will be no impact, and a lesser effect on those receiving partial benefits,” he said.

“Royal Greenwich is committed to supporting residents on lower incomes and the rents for our council properties are still among the lowest in London.”

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