A delayed Christmas present from Sandwell MBC to its 28,000+ council house tenants is a 2% rent rise. The rise is due to take effect in April. Housing chief Labour’s Cllr. Joanne Hadley expressed “great reluctance” to implement the rise but cheered herself up with the consolation it was less than the government cap on rent rises.

It’s legitimate to criticise any rent rise caused by Sandwell’s inept management of its housing stock.

The council, under pressure from a long waiting list for housing, does not do badly in the occupancy rates of its housing. In relation to rent arrears its record is not good. Rent arrears which in 2017-18 stood at £2,750,000+ have in 2019-20 soared to £4,127,489, an increase of 150% in 2 years. Set against the average weekly rent of £75.72, the current arrears figure shows the council is owed 54,509 weeks of unpaid rent.

It’s likely, on the basis that most council tenants pay their rent promptly, that we have the scenario, yet again, of the feckless few being supported by the hard working, paying their way many. Divvied up among Sandwell’s 28,000 tenants the current arrears, if collected, would enable a weekly rent decrease of £2.75 equivalent to a 3.63% rent reduction.

Digits need to be extracted at Sandwell council house. No rent rise is justified while this mountain of rent arrears remains.