THE number of evictions from council properties rose last year to its highest level for almost a decade.

In the last financial year there were 39, the largest number since 2004/05 when there were 68.

None of the evictions were as a result of the bedroom tax being introduced last year, with the main reason being give as the rise in the cost of living.

The majority of those evicted were single males with an average age of 35.

There was also an increase of just over £20,000 in rent arrears on the previous year, bringing the total to £650,000.

Coun Emma Faramarzi (Con, Priory Vale), who is the lead member for housing, said the team worked hard with tenants to make sure everything was done to avoid eviction.

She said: “Evicting people is always the absolute last resort. Before it gets to that stage the housing team will do everything possible.

“We work with the tenants to help them manage their budgets and make home visits. It is not like the private market where it can be one strike and you’re out.

“The decision to evict is eventually made by the courts. It is not something we make the call over.

“It is important to bear in mind that none of the evictions were down to benefit reforms.

“We are all aware of the cost of living which is something affecting everyone.”

Despite the rise last year, the figures this year are much more encouraging.

“So far this year there has only been one eviction,” said Coun Faramarzi.

“Where it was last year you would expect it to be around nine. We would prefer it to be zero but hopefully this pattern will continue.

“It is not something which is ever easy but hopefully we will see a fall this year.”

The rise in evictions has led to a call from Labour to take action against the increase in living to prevent further increases.

Coun Mark Dempsey (Lab, Walcot and Park North), who is the parliamentary candidate for North Swindon, said: “The increase in evictions shows the real life impact of the cost of living crisis.

“People in Swindon are £600 worse off under this Government and the increase in energy, food and clothes means people are feeling the squeeze.

“This is why we need action with Labour’s energy price freeze and three-year secure rents to prevent increases to help lower the number of evictions.”