RENT paid by people living in council houses is to increase – but by less than the government allows the authority to do in light of the cost-of-living crisis.

Members of the cabinet for Westmorland and Furness Council voted to recommend the authority raises the rent for council owned properties by 3.5 per cent.

Westmorland and Furness Council will now decide whether to adopt the proposals at a full council meeting later in the month.

A report prepared for the meeting said the government would allow the council to raise it by 7.7 per cent this year.

The increase in the average rent charged would increase by £3.10 each week from £88.56 to £91.66 per chargeable week if the proposals are approved.

Cabinet member for housing and homelessness councillor Judith Derbyshire said: “We have to have a balanced budget housing revenue account and we are going to draw a bit of money out of the reserves for the housing revenue account to balance it.

“The government formula to calculate what increase in rent we could do would allow us to put rents up by 7.7 per cent.

“But we’re very conscious of a lot of our residents are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and we have reduced the rate of increase down to 3.5 per cent.”

A report prepared for the cabinet meeting said the proposed increase was in recognition of the cost-of-living crisis but balanced against the need to drawdown from the earmarked reserve and ongoing cost pressures.

According to Cllr Derbyshire the council manages 2,500 properties in the Furness area and the  ‘low-level increase’ is only possible due to the management of the housing revenue account now and in the past.

The budget proposed for 2024/25 financial year is balanced and consists of £12.017m income and £12.650m expenditure, with a contribution from the housing revenue account earmarked reserve of £0.633m, the report adds.

Cllr Derbyshire said: “We have a duty to look after those properties and  make sure they’re in a very good state. I am very pleased that all the time I’ve been here I’ve been impressed by the work of Barrow Borough Council and the team who work on the housing there.

“A lot of the properties are already up to EPC C and a lot are in a very good state but at the same time, we are doing a survey to assess all the work we need to do in the future.”

Members of the cabinet recommended the proposed rise in rent in the social housing stock on February 13 at Penrith Town Hall.