RENTS for council house tenants around Bognor Regis will soar by seven per cent from April.
Approval for the steep increase was given by Arun District Council members on Tuesday (February 21).
A bid to restrict the immediate rise to two per cent with the rest of the increase phased in over the next three years was rejected.
The joint Liberal Democrat and Labour amendment was decisively defeated by the council’s ruling Conservative members.
The vote was 38 against, six in favour and five abstentions.
Cllr Simon McDougall (Bersted) said the tenants hardest hit by the rise would be the 28 per cent without housing benefit.
“These are hard-working people who get up out of bed in the morning, do a job for a low wage and will be just over the qualifying line for the benefit,” he said.
Cllr Dr James Walsh (Beach) said: “This is the old Tory policy of making the person at the bottom pay more while the rich in their Band H houses enjoy the second year of a council tax freeze.
“It’s the old Tory policy of robbing the poor and helping the rich.”
But the council’s leader, Gillian Brown (Aldwick East), said the rent increase was fixed by a government pricing formula linked to inflation last September.
This meant the average rent increase for the coming year would be £5.40 a week.
Delaying the rise would rob the council’s funds which were to be used for new council houses.
“This would cost us £700,000 a year,” she said.
“Of course, nobody wants rises like this for council house rents, but we don’t have any option if we want to continue to help the people in most need.”
Arun housing boss Cllr Roger Elkins (Ferring), said the new rent for a council three-bed property’s weekly charge to £91. A housing association property would cost £115 and privately rented £174.