Westminster council “manipulated figures” to put up tenants’ rent

Figures for high earner tenants are bogus, says Labour leader

Westminster Council has come under fire for “manipulating figures” on social housing to gain more control over rents.

Former housing boss Cllr Philippa Roe wrote to the welfare reform minister last month asking for greater council control to raise rents for middle and high earners.

At the moment, the maximum rent a council can charge tenants is set by the government.

Westminster’s application was based on the 2006 housing needs survey figures, which it said showed more than 2,200 households in social housing had an income above �50,000 a year and 200 earned more than �100,000.

But opposition councillors say the figures are “totally false” as they include more than 1,800 households who live in housing association homes – over which the council has no say in rent levels.

Therefore, if housing bosses were granted more powers to raise rents for high earners, only the remaining 406 households would be affected – of which 39 per cent contain five people. Furthermore, there are no households in council housing which earn above �100,000.

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Labour group leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said: “Westminster Conservatives have deliberately made false claims about the household incomes of council tenants in order to persuade the government to put up rents.

“This is the most serious abuse of statistics for party political gain I have ever seen. Eric Pickles should condemn this appalling behaviour by Westminster Conservatives without delay”.

But Cllr Roe said that such claims were “unfounded”.

“We have always made it clear that we were referring to social housing which also includes housing association properties,” she said.

“The overriding argument still remains that the existing one size fits all system of social housing rent is not fair or equitable.

“We simply believe that higher earners in social housing should pay slightly more rent. At the moment, you have households earning more than �50,000 a year who are paying the same levels of rent as low income working families or pensioners.”

The average council rent for a two-bedroom flat in Westminster is �110 a week.