RENTS in Ellesmere Port and Neston’s 5,600 council homes will soar by 9% after Tory councillors drove through an increase on Thursday.
Labour opposition voted against the hike – which will see the average weekly rent rise from £63.87 to £69.68 – at Cheshire West and Chester Council’s budget meeting.
But Conservatives pushed through the plans, saying the increase would enable the council to improve the standard of housing in the borough.
Mayor of Ellesmere Port and former housing chairman Cllr Angela Claydon said people ‘would not understand why the council needed to put up the rent by that amount’.
“Generally our tenants are on lower incomes,” she said. “Some will be on benefit but not all. I think this is the wrong time to be putting up the rent at such a high rate.
“We should think about our tenants in this austere environment before we put the rents up by 9%.”
But council leader Cllr Mike Jones said the rise was necessary, describing the standard of the housing inherited from Labour as ‘absolutely appalling’.
He said: “I think we should remember that what is unfair is the state of the housing we inherited from the Labour Party in Ellesmere Port.”
He said rents in the town were ‘extraordinarily low’, meaning there had been a ‘complete lack of investment in those houses for decades’.
“What this enables us to do is to invest £53m over five years to bring those houses up to a good, fair, modern standard for people to live in,” he added.
Deputy leader Cllr Les Ford said 47% of the homes ‘were not even decent to live in’, while Cllr Herbert Manley pointed out that – even with the increase – rents would be lower than in other parts of the borough.
He said: “We are doing a lot more now but we do need to do even more as people have been waiting for a long time. We are helping them to get the lifestyle they want.”
Ellesmere Port Town councillor and Labour leader Justin Madders agreed the level of homes not meeting decency standards was high, but said that had ‘doubled under this council’s watch’.
He said: “At a time of increasing expense for every household this rise will heap further misery on thousands of tenants.”