THE first new council houses in Arun for almost a generation are likely to be built within the next two or three years.
More than 21 years after the tenants of the council’s last property received their keys, Arun this week laid the financial foundations for small-scale pilot developments in the near future.
Council leader Gill Brown announced the house-building moves during her budget speech when, for the second year running, Arun froze its share of council tax bills, which will remain at £161.37 for a band D property.
However, average rents for Arun’s existing council tenants will rise by £5.40 a week, or seven per cent, drawing criticism from opposition councillors who claimed it would lead to greater hardship among some of the district’s poorest families.
Their call for the increase to be restricted to two per cent in the coming year, with further rises stepped up over the following years, was defeated.
Mrs Brown, who opposed the smaller rise, said the figure of £5.40 had been set in accordance with government guidelines based on the retail price index.
Arun cabinet member for housing Roger Elkins warned that the loss of £700,000 from the council’s housing revenue account if the full rise did not go ahead would have a “dramatic” effect on its future business plan, including the house-building proposals.
Liberal Democrat Dr James Walsh slammed the seven per cent increase, as part of a budget which froze council tax across the board.
“It’s the old Tory policy of making the poorest in society pay more, while the rich, living in properties with the highest council tax, benefit the most from a tax freeze,” he said.
He pointed out the Duke of Norfolk would be paying the same council tax for Arundel Castle that he had for the past two years.