YORK Travellers Trust is challenging a £12.90 increase in rents at the city's travellers' sites.

Emails between the trust and City of York Council, discovered through a Freedom of Information request by Osbaldwick councillor Mark Warters, have revealed a growing dispute over rents through 2014.

The Cabinet originally agreed to hike them by £25 a week to meet increased management costs but the figure was subsequently reduced to £12.90 following protests by the trust.

But the trust complained that the lower increase was voted through at cabinet in September without the trust being informed it was being discussed. It also said it had legal advice that such an increase might not be lawful and suggested it might take the matter to a rent tribunal.

Spokeswoman Christine Shepherd confirmed it was challenging the rise, saying it was a huge percentage increase, which would impact on many residents, even those on partial housing benefit, and it would discourage them from seeking work.

She said increases should have been introduced gradually, and a petition against the rise was being organised amongst residents.

Steve Waddington, assistant director for housing & public protection, said the increase was intended to be used for additional staff requirements to ensure the appropriate level of management and support could be provided to the travelling community.

Cllr Warters said the documents had quoted officers as saying the vast majority of the increase would be met through housing benefit and end up coming out of the public purse anyway.

He claimed the trust's complaint was 'ludicrous', saying it appeared to be expecting council taxpayers to pick up the bill for improved management of sites, which was needed to tackle problems such as fly tipping caused by the trust's own clients.

The emails also revealed that a grievance had been raised by staff who manage York's three sites over 'significant concerns for their health and safety'.

These concerns arose in part from an assault on the James Street site earlier this year, after which staff halted visits to the site for five weeks.

Meanwhile, the council has revealed that it is currently in a tendering process in relation to delayed plans to build a site management office and community facility on the Osbaldwick site, and expects it to be completed by next April.