A rent hike on the caravan site in Salford which featured in the TV show ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’ has been condemned by a councillor. It follows a decision by Salford city council’s cabinet to increase rent on the Duchy Caravan Site by 12.4 per cent, compared to a rise of only seven per cent on 12,000 social housing properties in the Pendleton area of Salford.
Coun Sharmina Augusth said the move ‘leaves a bad taste in my mouth’. Social housing rents are to rise by an average of £6.57 from £93.85 per week to £100.42 while an average pitch fee at the Duchy Caravan Site will go up from £57.92 per week to £65.10.
Coun Shamina August told Salford city council’s cabinet: “I am really proud of the work we do for the Travelling community in our authority. We are one of the few local authorities in the country which has pitches for Travellers who are among one of the most marginalised communities.”
She said it ‘comforts me greatly’ that most of the residents on the site would be in receipt of Housing Benefit and would not necessarily be adversely affected by the rise, but added: “This leaves a bad taste in my mouth.” However, head of service housing strategy Andrew Leigh told the meeting that at the site, which the council took over from Salix Homes in 2021, the rent rise was needed to mitigate a £100,000 deficit.
Coun Barbara Bentham told the meeting that not everyone on the Duchy site was in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. “People who have adult children don’t all get their rent covered,” she said.
Mr Leigh said he would ‘go away and find out more’. “I need to check on this,” he said. Meanwhile, the cabinet was told that during the summer the Government announced a social housing rents consultation which suggested increases in rents of between three and seven pc.
City mayor Paul Dennett said: “Our position on this was very clear in that we wanted a rent freeze because of the cost of living crisis and we wanted housing associations and councils to be fully compensated at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate, plus one pc, but that, unfortunately, hasn’t happened.” He went on: “My reading of the situation is that even with these increases people who are on Housing Benefit will have their costs met by Local Housing Allowances.”
Mr Dennett said the cost of repairs had increased and new safety and building regulations [removing cladding and installing sprinklers and fire safety measures] ‘post-Grenfell’ as well as work carried out on curing damp and mould in the wake of the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in Rochdale. “This [the Awaab Ishak case] has resulted in a lot of activity, not just here in Salford, but across the country,” he said. “I’ve been assured that there is a lot of work underway across the city to tackle issues of damp and mould.
“Inevitably, all of this work needs to be paid for and the resources come from rents and borrowing that housing associations are undertaking. With inflation and interest rates being where they’re at, we all understand why we are having to act at this stage.”
He added: “The residents also have access to Salford Assist and the Pendleton Together hardship fund.”