Council house tenants in Leeds are facing inflation-busting rents rises of nearly seven per cent from April.
The Government has told the city council that it expects council house rents to rise by 6.84 per cent in 2011-12 – an average increase of around 4.18p a week.
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While the suggested hike is only a guideline figure and the council has the final say on the rent increase, councillors say the way the current funding system is operated by central government leaves them with very little choice but to pass the rise on to tenants.
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Coun Peter Gruen (Lab, Cross Gates and Whinmoor), the council's executive member for neighbourhoods and housing, has hit out at ministers for recommending such a big increase at a time when so many people are struggling to make ends meet.
He fears that a high rent increase, combined with proposed cuts to housing benefit, could put vulnerable tenants at risk.
He said: "The council administration in Leeds is doing all it can to protect the vulnerable from the sharp end of the coalition government's cuts, but when the Government instructs us to increase tenants' rents by 6.8 per cent without consulting us it puts us in an extremely difficult position.
"The Government say that this rent hike is only a guideline increase, but in reality, for every one per cent of this increase the council does not pass on to tenants means 1.6m less to spend on managing and repairing tenants' homes.
"We are already having to deal with the consequences of the coalition's cuts agenda, which will see council budgets slashed by 28 per cent over the next four years, meaning we need to save 90m next year alone.
"Trying to find the resources to combat this attack on council tenants on top of what we already need to save may well prove to be beyond the resources we have available.
"Despite this, we will continue to do everything in our power to shield the vulnerable from the onslaught of government cuts."