COUNCIL rents in Sandwell are being increased by almost four per cent, but tenants in Halesowen and Cradley will face a rise of just 1.5 per cent.

Hard-pressed Sandwell Council chiefs say they have “no choice” but to put up rents for tenants in April in a bid to balance the books.

Councillor Steve Eling, Sandwell Council deputy leader and cabinet member for strategic resources, said: “We don’t want to have to put rents up – but we have no choice. We are looking to keep the rise as low as we possibly can.

“If we’d followed Government guidelines for rent increases this year, we’d be looking at a 4.6 per cent rise.

“However, we think that’s excessive so we are proposing to keep it well below that at 3.8 per cent, which is the minimum we can get away with.”

Tenants’ rent rises will vary depending on the size of their home with the average increase being around £3.19 extra per week over a 48-week rent year.

Councillor Eling said the new weekly average bill of £87.88 still compared favourably with privately rented homes, where private tenants typically pay around £125 a week.

Councillor Ian Jones, cabinet member for jobs and economy, added: “We rely solely on rents to keep improving our housing stock and providing services to our tenants. The rent increase will help pay for improvements and services tenants want.”

But tenants paying rent to Dudley Council are set to face increases averaging £1.22 a week from April 7.

Councillor Steve Waltho, cabinet member for housing, said: “This is a very small rent increase and one which is essential to ensure we can continue to meet the needs of housing services now and in the future. "

The rent rise is due to be approved by the cabinet next Wednesday as part of a five-year housing budget of £206 million, which will be used to improve existing council homes, carry out major works and build new council homes.

This includes £24 million being spent on repairs and maintenance, £21 million on installing central heating, £32 million on replacing windows and doors, £16 million on replacing roofs and £14 million on adaptations for elderly and disabled people.

A further £59 million will be spent on improving properties as they become empty so they can be re-let easily and £18 million will be invested in services including income collection, tenancy enforcement, support for vulnerable tenants and lettings management.