Highland councillors approve small rise in council home rents
13th February 2020
Members today approved a modest 3% rent increase for residential rents and service charges following detailed consultation with tenants.
The increase will result in a rise in the average weekly council house rent from £75.38 to £77.74 (£2.26), which means that Highland rents are still 8th lowest of the 26 councils which retain housing.
Today's report, which went before members at a special meeting of Highland Council, highlighted that rent levels for 2020/21 will generate sufficient income to fund expenditure relating to housing management, repairs and loan charges.
Tenants were consulted on options of a 2.5%, 3% or 3.5% increase. The overall response rate was 1,406, which signalled a significant in crease in the responses to consultation in previous years.
A significant part of the increase in repairs and maintenance (£1.780m) is an additional £1m to comply with new standards for domestic fire detection arising from changes introduced by the Scottish Government as part of the national response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Direct staff cost increases and bad debt provision based on continuing trends in rent arrears are all linked to the decision to increase rents.
Housing and Property Committee chairman, Cllr Ben Thompson, said: "The Council has a legal requirement to balance its Housing Revenue Account income and expenditure at the end of the financial year.
"To that end, members have today accepted the proposal for a small increase to housing rent and service charges for the coming year 2020/21."
He added: “The Council continues to identify annual efficiency savings aimed at reducing management and maintenance costs without compromising best value for tenants.
“This small rise in rents will help to support an improving housing service for tenants."
Highland Council's Tenant Participation Team has also been working with interested tenants who say they would like more say in all aspects of their tenancy.
That close relationship gives tenants the opportunity to put forward their priorities for improvements to the areas they live in and make sure investment is targeted at community priorities. This small increase in rents will further enable the Council to meet those priorities.
Council tax payers in Highland who have lost their jobs or are experiencing a drop in their income are being encouraged to apply as quickly as possible for a reduction in their council tax. This help, known as the ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme', is available for lower income households, including home owners.
Around 19,000 business rate payers in Highland will not receive their annual rates bill this April. The Highland Council recognises the exceptional economic challenges for local business and has therefore decided to pause business rates bills in respect of financial year 2020/21.
What is 'shielding'? If you fall within one of the groups recommended to shield, you will have received a letter or text from the NHS. Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising contact between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.
During this time of restrictions it is important that we all stay active, for our physical health and mental well being. Recreation outside is an important element of this, but it is essential that each of us practice good social distancing while outside.
The Highland Council has launched a free helpline to give assistance and to collect details of individuals and community groups looking to provide volunteering support during Covid19. The single line number - 0300 303 1362 - will connect callers to relevant Council specialist teams and will operate Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm.
Highland Council will be providing e-vouchers to families to support access to free school meals from week commencing 30 March 2020. This innovative and easy-to-use service will ensure over 4,000 school children will continue to receive support for school meals while schools are closed.
The Council has been working at pace to set up centres for the children of key workers. Anyone who has applied for a place at one of the key worker hubs in the Highland Council area will be contacted by the end of today (Wednesday 25th) with confirmation of the arrangements that have been put in place.
THE HELPLINE GOES LIVE TODAY FROM 2:00pm ONWARDS. The Highland Council has launched a free helpline to give assistance and to collect details of individuals and community groups looking to provide volunteering support during Covid19.
Due to the COVID19 restrictions and the closure of Council Service Points, there has been a change in the way Highland Council provides its Homeless services. If you become Homeless, please contact the Council's Service Centre on 01349 886602 (during office hours) and 01349 886691 (out of hours) for further help and support.
As a landlord, the Council's priority is maintaining the welfare of our tenants and providing you with essential services at this difficult time. The situation is changing daily, but this bulletin contains the most up-to-date information about where you can seek advice if you have any concerns about your wellbeing, income or other tenancy matters.
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