Conservative leaders at North Yorkshire County Council are set to raise rent on council houses by the maximum permitted amount have justified the move saying they are “interested in looking after council estates rather than country estates”.
A full meeting of North Yorkshire County Council next month will consider whether to approve a recommendation from its executive to charge residents of about 8,500 council-owned homes from Richmondshire, Harrogate and Selby districts seven per cent more to fund improvements in the properties.
A meeting of the authority’s executive heard its members viewed providing good quality housing as “a foundation stone” for vulnerable residents and those with the lowest incomes.
They said combined with its move to levy extra council tax on second homes, the rental increase would aid its ambition to increase the volume of social housing across the county.
The authority’s deputy leader, Councillor Gareth Dadd, said: “We around this table are more interested in looking after council estates than country estates.”
An officer’s report the meeting stated due to inflation the council was set to invest £2.2m more into the cost of running and maintaining the homes in the coming year than it would receive in rental payments.
While government rules introduced in 2012 stipulate the housing service must be self-funding, the combined surpluses the district councils have built up means the authority will be able to undertake building improvements.
Executive member for planning for growth, Councillor Simon Myers, said the formation of a unitary authority presented “great opportunities” in tackling the stubborn issue of creating a sufficient amount of affordable housing.
He said: “I hope that being a housing revenue account holding authority will help enable us to in some way tackle the housing crisis that faces our residents.
“There is room for optimism in the responsibilities we are taking on, however, there are pressures, as there is everywhere else.”
Coun Myers said due to inflationary pressures, it was becoming increasingly important to have budgeted funds set aside to keep the housing at a decent standard.
He said the unitary authority was looking to develop more social housing, adding: “It is morally imperative that we bring our housing stock up to a decent standard…”
Coun Myers said: “We would like to build on the success of the boroughs and districts and build further accommodation for social rent.”
The meeting heard the administration was reluctantly proposing to levy the maximum council house rental rise permitted by the government this year.
He said every one per cent less increase this year would mean £330,000 less revenue to fund improving and increasing the number of council homes.
Coun Myers said the authority understood the financial pressures facing council tenants, but that it had a long-term commitment to providing good quality homes and the only way to “up our game” was to charge a seven per cent increase.
Councillor Derek Bastiman, the council’s executive member for open for business, said he would “make no apologies” for ensuring residents’ right to live in a comfortable home.