RENTS for council house tenants will rise by 3.2 per cent over the next 12 months after Stroud District Council approved its spending plans for the 2013/2014 financial year.

The rent increase means tenants will be paying an average of £2.66 more per week, which equates to an additional £87.49 over a 48-week year.

It was calculated by adding the Consumer Price Index measure of 2.7 per cent for September to an extra 0.5 per cent for growth.

Stroud District Council rejected calls from Conservative Party councillors to hike rents by a further 0.5 per cent, with members of the ruling rainbow alliance insisting it was unfair to make tenants pay more in difficult economic times.

But Cllr Paul Carter (Con, Nailsworth) criticised the decision to keep rent increases to a minimum and drew attention to the fact that £4.3 million had been lost from the council’s housing revenue account over the next 30 years as a result of last year’s decision to suppress rent rises.

“By keeping the rents down the long term effect is that we will be able to build less houses. Last year we cut out £4 million,” he said.

“This year a little bit of money is going back (£1.35m) but only a little bit more money. If we had made it CPI plus one per cent we would have had more money going back in. We need to think about the interests of all the people in the district.”

A host of Labour councillors defended the decision to restrict rent rises for council tenants to 3.2 per cent, however, and they joined with their Lib Dem and Green alliance partners in approving the figure, whilst the Tories abstained.

Cllr Steve Lydon (Lab, The Stanleys) said: “We are doing our best to make sure that the people who are suffering are supported,” while former MP and Labour district councillor David Drew (Farmhill and Paganhill) said: “This budget is absolutely right to concentrate on trying to help those most in need.”

Speaking during the special budget meeting at Ebley Mill on Thursday night (January 23), the chairman of SDC’s housing committee Mattie Ross (Lab, Stonehouse), said: “I think we have got the balance right. The budget is very good news for our tenants.”