WINCHESTER councillors have pushed through an inflation-busting rent hike.

They voted overwhelmingly for an increase of 5.38 per cent for affordable housing rents in the city for 2014/2015 and housing bosses insist the extra increase is unavoidable.

They say it is in line with a business plan agreed with the government, where the rise consists of inflation plus 0.5 per cent, plus a £3 increase for more than half of its tenants.

Civic chiefs said the increases will bring the rents of council tenants more in line with the private sector.

It will also help protect its housing plan which includes building 300 new homes over the next 10 years, as well as good maintenance of existing stock.

This will be the fourth year of above-inflation increases.

Housing chief, Cllr Tony Coates, said: “I do understand it is going to be hard for some people to accept. But the basis of the borrowing we did from the government so that we could take control of housing development, was that we agreed to a business plan where we move towards target rents.”

Just three councillors, Labour’s Chris Pines and Janet Berry, and the Lib Dem’s Brian Collin, abstained from a vote on Wednesday (Jan 8), while all other members voted in favour of the hike.

Cllr Brian Collin said: “The new houses programme is starting to lose credibility. I’m starting to lose belief that they’re going to achieve the numbers they say. I’m only starting though, that’s why I abstained.

“I do not think they’re going to create anywhere near as many new homes as they need to.”