Rents cut for 11,000 Brighton and Hove council tenants

Posted On 19 Jan 2017 at 12:01 pm

Rents are to be cut by 1 per cent for more than 11,000 council tenants in Brighton and Hove, with identical cuts to follow for the three years after.

And almost 2,000 tenants will have cheaper gas bills as the price drops for those with communal heating.

More than 800 older residents will pay slightly less for their laundry thanks to a new cheaper contract.

And increases in service charges are being kept to inflation levels or lower – with some electricity bills forecast to fall and other charges staying the same.

There is, though, a new charge for servicing, maintaining and repairing the growing number of door entry systems in council flats. Some are ageing and costing more to keep working.

More than 4,000 tenants will pay an average of 48p a week from April to reflect the rising cost to the Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA).

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The council plans to spend almost £1 million on new and replacement door entry systems and CCTV in the coming year.

A similar sum will be spent on replacing dozens of ageing lifts as part of the £40 million HRA capital programme.

More than £1.2 million is budgeted for roofing, with a saving in the cost of repair call-outs expected as a result.

Major structural works and decorations account for more than £3 million each, heating improvements will cost more than £2 million while work on kitchens and bathrooms are expected to require almost £2 million.

Rewiring will also cost almost £2 million and window replacement is budgeted for £1.3 million. And more than £1 million is being set aside for disabled aids and adaptations.

Five new build and conversion projects account for almost £16 million. The two conversions are at Stonehurst Court and the old Oxford Street housing office.

Former council leader Mary Mears was delighted with the proposal to build 12 flats on the Oxford Street site. The Conservative councillor was scathing about how long it had been left empty.

Councillor Mary Mears

Councillor Mary Mears

It closed in September 2014, she said, adding: “What happened to Oxford Street was a disgrace. It was an HRA property wasn’t properly maintained.

“It was allowed to fall into disrepair. That is absolutely disgraceful. Lessons need to be learnt from this.

“Never again should an HRA asset be allowed to fall into disrepair and be closed for over two years before we even get a report.”

Councillor Anne Meadows, who chairs the council’s Housing and New Homes Committee, spelt out her disappointment that the government had not lifted the borrowing cap for the Housing Revenue Account.

It makes it harder to help working people on lower incomes to live in the city, the Labour councillor said, adding: “We will continue to press the case for lifting the cap through our devolution negotiations with the government.”

In the meantime, hundreds of new council houses and flats were being built and other schemes were in the pipeline.

Councillor Anne Meadows welcomes new Robert Lodge residents Tekin Akkurt, left, and Sylviane Cayrol, with her dog Tilly

Councillor Anne Meadows welcomes new Robert Lodge residents Tekin Akkurt, left, and Sylviane Cayrol, with her dog Tilly

As the Housing and New Homes Committee prepared to discuss the budget for the coming year, she also highlighted recently completed schemes such as one at Robert Lodge, in Whitehawk, and Pierre Close, off Foredown Road, in Portslade.

And she said that open days would be held at the show flat at the Brooke Mead extra care complex next month. Elderly residents should start moving in during the summer.

Councillors were told that a new gas service contract would save £450,000 from the housing budget in the coming year.

And Councillor Meadows also welcomed the money being granted by the government to help to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping.

“We have been rewarded … with a funding boost of over £2.5 million to the city,” she said. “It is a reflection of the good reputation we have for innovative approaches in this area that we were able to draw this money to the city.”

The HRA revenue budget – the day-to-day costs of providing, repairing and maintaining council houses and flats – is expected to be about £58 million in the coming year.

This is slightly more than was budgeted in the current year and slightly less than looks likely to be spent. The difference in the current year is a result mainly of repair costs running over budget.

The £40 million capital budget is down from £43 million this year but means that the overall budget for council housing is likely to be £98 million in the 2016-17 financial year.

The full council is responsible for agreeing how much will be raised and spent and will vote on the HRA – as well as the overall council budget – on Thursday 23 February.

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