TENANTS living in council housing will face a rise in their rent at the same time as money to support those struggling will be cut, if plans are given the go ahead.

Winchester City Council’s cabinet were informed of a raft of changes which will affect those living in the authority’s 5,000 council houses.

The housing revenue account budget options were put on the table by Cllr Kelsie Learney, member for housing and asset management, during a meeting last week.

Members were informed that after four years of rent cuts imposed by central government it has been proposed that there will be a rent rise of 2.7 per cent.

But Cllr Learney said that it will allow the council to “provide a better service for our existing tenants and underpin our council home building programme”.

However, moments later the meeting was told that it would be cutting its support for welfare measures.

“While Universal Credit has as expected led to an increase in rent arrears the use of welfare benefit advisors has been very successful and demand for discretionary housing payments has been less than expected as a result we are suggesting cutting support for annual provision for welfare measures from £100,000 to £50,000 per year,” Cllr Learney said.

It was met with some criticism from former council leader Cllr Caroline Horrill calling for the council to look into the future rather than focussing on the now.

She said: “I question the Universal Credit number you are proposing and my recommendation is for you to keep it there. And the reason it was introduced by the team that I worked with over several years is just the uncertainty of Universal Credit and with the new numbers coming through, the increasing numbers, I just think we as an authority need assurance that there is money in the pot in case we need it.

“It would be great if we don’t but I think that provision and certainty for those who are the most vulnerable would be better. “

But strategic director Richard Botham clarified that the sum of money has been part of the budget for the past three years but it has not been called upon due to a discretionary housing grant that government provides and assistance from the council’s support team.

He added: “Rather than just sit unspent money there we are recommending that we dial that back down a little bit.”

Mr Botham continued, telling councillors that are “significant reserves” if the fund was needed.

It was also revealed that rent rates will be looked at the next financial year, with Cllr Learney saying the council will “look at how we can best balance levels of rents with the quality of service we are able to provide for our tenants not just in terms of day to day maintenance but how we can move on more quickly improving their homes”.