More than 10,000 council and 5,000 housing association tenants could be facing a rent increase next year of more than 10 per cent if inflation continues at its current rate.

For the last couple of years, Swindon Borough Council has increased the rents it charges its tenants in line with the government guide of the Consumer Price Index plus one per cent.

This summer the Consumer Price Index, one of the measures of inflation, is running at nine per cent.

If that continues and Swindon Borough Council continues its policy of rent rises, tenants could be asked for 10 per cent more next year in rent.

Representatives of Swindon tenants have written to the council and called for the cabinet member for housing Cathy Martyn to have a rent freeze next year.

One representative Martin Wicks said: “The 'cost of living crisis' is driving many people close to the financial edge, some of them over it.

“We face another huge energy price rise in October with another expected in January.

 "A 10 per cent rent increase for tenants would drive more people into poverty.

“Everybody has heard of the choice of 'eating or heating' phenomenon and parents who on occasions go without food to ensure their children eat. More people are likely to face this choice if their rent increases by 10 per cent. Living in a cold house because you cannot afford the heating is detrimental to health.

Mr Wicks added: “In February of this year around half of Swindon tenants who pay their full rent or part of it, were in arrears. Whilst arrears fluctuate throughout the year we can be sure that a double-digit rent increase would drive up arrears.

"Many tenants, even if in work, are struggling to get by month by month."

Mr Wicks recognised that repairs to council houses can only be paid for from the money the authority receives in rents.

He said: “The council may say that it has to raise the rent in line with inflation because if it doesn’t they will have less money to maintain our homes.”

“This is a genuine dilemma when Swindon's Housing Revenue Account is under-funded as a result of government policy.

“That's why we are calling for the government to fund a rent freeze.”

Mr Wicks said that local authorities should band together to demand adequate funding from central government and said shortfalls should not be closed by large rent increases.

He added: “Some people on the waiting list are already being refused a tenancy because the council considers they cannot afford the rent. If they can't afford council rent what can they afford?

“There is little more stressful than struggling to pay the rent and facing the threat of eviction. The stress and worry of accruing rent arrears can exacerbate existing mental health problems, and, for some, this can cause a mental health crisis.”

Swindon Borough Council rents will be set in the council’s budget which will be set next February - with the new bills coming into force in the new financial year in April 2023. The increase set in February this year was 4.1 per cent.

Councillor Cathy Martyn, Euclid Street’s cabinet member for health inequalities and housing, said: “The cost of living is a key consideration for the council when setting rents later this year.

“We are also mindful of increased costs to suppliers, labour and contracts in running our services to tenants.

“Clearly the right balance needs to be struck and we expect government guidance will be amended ahead of the rent setting process to allow greater flexibility.

“We will update our tenants as and when we have further news to share.”