COUNCIL tenants in Portsmouth will see their rent increase – to help pay for the city’s adventure playgrounds.
The four per cent rise – which will see the basic rent for a flat go up more than £2 a week to £67.31 – will hit 15,500 tenants across the city.
Part of the rental costs will be spent on maintaining the play parks at Paulsgrove, Buckland, Landport, Portsea, Somers Town and Stamshaw, which cost £500,000 per year to keep open.
Because of cuts to the council’s children’s services budget, the housing department has agreed to save them from closure, using an average of 64p per tenant per week from the rent increase.
Council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘Most council houses don’t have gardens, so youngsters use these play parks because they are a good place to exercise and play.
‘We’re pleased to have worked out a way to ensure government cuts won’t force them to close.’
The rent increase is actually below the government’s recommendations for councils to hike prices by 7.9 per cent.
But the city council said it will also increase service charges, paid by tenants for services including cleaning, by £2.12 per week for flats and maisonettes, a 45 per cent rise on this year’s charge.
Housing boss Cllr Steven Wylie passed the revised charges following a consultation with residents’ groups.
Of 700 people who responded to the consultation, 75 to 80 per cent voted in favour of the option.
Cllr Wylie said: ‘We’re very glad to have kept the increase lower than the government said, and we’re pleased there was a clear view from the residents on what they wanted to happen, which we have been able to deliver.’
Cllr Wylie added: ‘We had no intention of letting the parks close, but a department had to step in to stop it happening because the money we’d originally had for them wasn’t there any more. They are of benefit to everyone in their communities, so we’re delighted to be able to keep them open.’
Alison Hager, 36, from Waterloo Street, Southsea, who campaigned to keep Somers Town adventure playground open, said: ‘It’s fantastic news that they aren’t closing.
‘And around this area it is only a small number of people who own their own homes, most of us live in council properties.
‘So since we are the ones mostly using the playgrounds, I don’t mind paying a bit more to keep them open.
‘It’s a small price to pay.’
Shame to lose flowers say green group
A GREEN group promoting flowers in Portsmouth say it would be shameful to cutback on hanging basket.
Yesterday, The News reported that not even hanging baskets are safe as Portsmouth City Council plans to slash the number throughout the area by 30 per cent.
In a bid to save £18,000, the city council plan to reduce the number of hanging baskets from 841 to 588.
But a committee member of the Portsmouth Horticultural Society has said the flowers are needed to welcome people into the city.
Wendy Favell said: ‘Hanging baskets and flowers are a great attraction to the city as it livens the place up.
‘Some of our displays are world-famous.
‘When I went to Niagara Fall in Canada, I was surprised to see a photograph of the flower clock, which is in Southsea.
‘It would be a shame for them to be lost as in the grand scheme of things I’m sure savings can be made elsewhere.
‘I don’t think £18,000 is a big enough saving.’
Also facing the axe are Portsmouth’s remaining winter bedding for ﬂowers and plants, leading to bare areas in winter and early spring.
But this would reduce the amount spent by the council’s culture leisure and sport department by £24,000 every year.
SCHOOLS in Portsmouth are being urged to rally together to survive cuts which will hit extended services like dyslexia support and after-school clubs.
The former ‘extended services’ grant worth £3m a year will no longer be run by the council - instead schools will be given the money directly with no obligation to spend it on extended services.
Derek Trimmer, head of Mayfield School, said: ‘It is vital schools work together as we’re expected to do more with a lot less.’
Simon Cattermole, head of Stamshaw Juniors, said: ‘We’ve already seen a 1.5 per cent reduction in the money allocated to each pupil. The budgets will be tight, but let’s grab the change with both hands and get the right support for all our children.’