Watch: Chloe Smith attacks Norwich council leader for opposing higher rents for higher earners accusing him of “self interest”

MP Chloe Smith Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

MP Chloe Smith Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Norwich's council leader has hit back at a city MP who accused him of showing the worst kind of self interest for opposing government plans to increase council house rents for higher earners while living in a council house himself.

Conservative Chloe Smith urged MPs to reject proposed changes to the Housing and Planning Bill which would allow councils to use discretion in bringing in the policy, citing the example of Norwich leader Alan Waters.

Under the so-called 'pay to stay' plan, families or individuals with a total annual income of £30,000 outside London or £40,000 in the capital will have to pay rents 'at market or near-market levels'.

Ms Smith told MPs the Mr Waters did not want higher earning tenants to pay a fairer rent because he was likely to be one of them, claiming it was 'hypocritical and wrong' for a council leader to oppose a policy if he stood to benefit from it

But Mr Waters said the policy was going to hit people on low pay given that two people on the new so-called living wage would be just shy of the £30,000 threshold at which tenants would have to pay more rent.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Pic: Jeff Taylor.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Pic: Jeff Taylor. - Credit: Archant

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'I have an obligation as the leader of a council that wants to build council homes that people can afford to live in, I am the leader of a council committed to that. I am speaking on behalf of the community and those people concerned.'

He said he was disappointed Ms Smith had not been prepared to debate the issues with him in person at their meetings.

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'She has done it as a personal attack in parliament using privilege. I am disappointed really.'

I have not exercised the right to buy because I personally believe that council housing is a community asset to be preserved to meet future housing needs. The house I live in will go to new tenants when I am gone.

'There is no taxpayers' subsidy for council housing: it is self-financing and funded through the rents paid by all council tenants.' Ms Smith told MPs: 'The people of Norwich deserve higher standards of integrity from our council rather than a strong smell of self-interest and personal gain.'

Should council tenants pay market rent if they earn more than £30,000? You can leave your comments below.

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