Valley Grove in Charlton
Rents for people who move into empty properties will be increased

A rise in some Greenwich Council rents could see neighbours paying different sums to live in their homes, senior councillors were told on Wednesday.

The council’s cabinet approved plans to hike rents by up to 6.7 per cent for new tenants moving into council properties, in a move which saw opposition Conservatives accuse the Labour majority of exploiting a “loophole”.

Spencer Drury, the Conservative spokesperson for housing, said he had “serious concerns” about the increase, stating that while councillors had agreed a 2.7 per cent rise in rents in February, there had been “no mention of any prospect of this happening” at the time.

He said it would “substantially” raise rents for five per cent of tenants.

“It seems to me if you put forward this proposal, people living next door to each other may be paying different levels of rent, which doesn’t seem right or fair,” he said.

Greenwich’s senior council officer in charge of housing, Jamie Carswell, said the policy would affect about five per cent of the 21,000 households in council housing, with about 780 new lets expected each year.

He added the move could be “accommodated within the overall approach agreed at council in February” and was “not intended to lack any degree of member scrutiny”.

Greenwich’s director of legal services, John Scarborough, said he was satisfied the proposal could be decided by the cabinet and not by a meeting of all councillors due to the “extremely small scale” of tenants who would be affected.

The cabinet member for housing, Anthony Okereke, told the meeting that “council rents are key for bringing an income to maintaining our housing stock and building new homes”.

Before the meeting, Okereke had said there would be no impact for tenants on Housing Benefits or Universal Credit, and a “lesser effect” on those receiving partial benefits, because the proposals would be covered by the Local Housing Allowance. The council’s rents were still among the lowest in London, he added.

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Lachlan Leeming is the Local Democracy Reporter for Bexley. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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