BUDGET plans at South Tyneside Council have received a mixed reception from residents’ groups in the borough.
It emerged this week that borough Council Tax bills are to be frozen for the fourth consecutive year.
But rents are set to rise by 6.8 per cent over the course of the year – meaning tenants face an average hike of about £5.50 a week.
Council bosses say both decisions have been enforced, in part, by central government guidelines and restrictions.
The Labour-run council is facing up to another year of cost savings with £18m identified.
VIDEO: Rents to rise as £18 council cuts bite
Despite the financial restrictions, council bosses are determined to push ahead with regeneration plans, including community hubs in Jarrow and Hebburn and the South Shields 365 ‘masterplan’.
Lee Hughes, chairman of the 4 Bede Residents Group, on Jarrow’s Scotch Estate, said: “As a businessman I pay my staff just over the minimum wage, and a £5 or £6 a week rent rise is a lot of money to them. They’d have to work an extra hour to cover it.
“I’m all for the Council Tax being frozen for the fourth consecutive year but that’s been taken away on the other hand by this rent rise. In many cases rents are as much as a mortgage now. I also feel that Jarrow is losing out in terms of borough regeneration – it all seems to be focused on South Shields.”
Val Fay, vice chairman of Primrose Residents’ Association, said: “It’s really good news that Council Tax is being frozen, but rising rents is a huge concern.
“We know of a single parent living in a council house in Jarrow with her 16-year-old son.
“She goes out to work and pays £85 a week in rent. Now she has to find another £22 in rent a month. It’s hardly worth her going out to work.
“I feel so sorry for the young people trying to make ends meet. As an alternative to rent rises, the number of councillors for each ward should be cut. You don’t need three for each ward.”