doc

COUNCIL house rents across Dudley borough are being frozen for the first time in a decade.

Proposals which had been put forward by Labour Councillor Gaye Partridge, Dudley Council’s cabinet member for housing, were agreed upon at Monday (February 23) evening’s full council meeting.

The decision to freeze the rent, which will mean average rates continuing at £82.54 per week over a 50-week year, was welcomed by councillors from all parties.

Cllr Partridge said: “The freeze in rent will help tenants and working families who are struggling from the consequences of a low income economy.

“We were cautious to use this power, but we are in a better position to do it now than we would have been 12 months ago.”

Labour Councillor Ken Finch said: “I am delighted that after 10 years of continual rises in council rents we can now say we are having freezes.

“Across Dudley people have been hit hard by policies of the government, including the bedroom tax, but I see this as a victory.

“This council believes everyone should have the right to a safe and affordable home.”

Conservative Councillor Robert James said Labour should have frozen the rates last year.

He said: “We will be backing the report on this side as we do believe in freezing the rents for our hard up council tenants, however is it what I said in this chamber last year.”

However, Independent Councillor Ken Turner said the council should have “taken a little bit of an advantage” of the improving economic climate and increased the rents.

“I would have looked at a small increase that could have been re-used,” he said.

“What we should also be doing is installing solar panels and other forms of self generated heat especially for elderly and disabled residents to make sure they always have at least one room at any time which is warm.

“It would also generate revenue back into this authority.”

UKIP Councillor Paul Brothwood welcomed the freeze, but said the council needs to do more in relation to rental arrears.

He said: “The biggest problem is if people are £100 or more in rental arrears they cannot move to a smaller property and save them paying the bedroom tax.

“This leaves the most vulnerable and poor in a vicious cycle of debt.”

The freeze on housing rent rates comes after a national formula calculated that the council could have increased rents by up to three per cent.