Councillors agree house rent increase at 3%
24th January 2019
The average weekly rent charged by The Highland Council to its 13,411 council house tenants is set to increase by 3% for the coming financial year 2019/20.
The average weekly rent will rise from £73.22 to £75.42 - an increase of £2.20 per week.
The 3% increase will be applied across the region to residential rents, gypsy/traveller site pitches, service charges and garage and garage sites.
In 2019/20, the Council's proposed budget for Council housing repairs and maintenance is £17,811 million (an increase of 5.9% on last year's repairs and maintenance budget).
The rent collected goes into an account called the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and this money is only used for services which benefit Council tenants, such as repairs to houses. It does not pay for roads, street lights; refuse collection or services other than Housing.
Cllr John Finlayson, Chair of the Council’s Care, Learning and Housing Committee said: "This report shows that the Council’s Housing Revenue Account is in a healthy position and this small rise in rents will help to ensure that we are able to increase the amount of money we spend on environmental improvements to our housing estates, which is something we know is a priority for tenants.
"The Council continues to work hard to keep rent increases as low as possible for tenants while continuing to provide a high level of front line services and investment in our housing stock, and we have had rent increase well below the national average for a number of years."
He added: “To maintain a healthy Housing Revenue Account in future we do need to update our financial assumptions and future Account business plan and I am pleased that Members have agreed that a full review of the Housing Revenue Account loan charges and capital planning is carried out which will help to determine future rent policies and capital planning for housing."
Highland Council rents are the second lowest of the 5 main Housing Associations operating in the Council area; and since 2010/11 Highland Council annual rent increases have consistently been among the lowest in Scotland.
Investment of an additional £1.5m for roads maintenance was approved as a priority area for the Council's revenue budget. The additional money will help to boost the annual budget for pothole repairs, clearing culverts, and bridge maintenance.
Tighter controls on what can be taken to the public recycling centres are set to save £300,000 over the next two financial years. This proposal introduces restrictions on construction and demolition waste brought to our Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC), limiting quantities to small amounts generated through minor DIY activities.
The main activities that the social enterprise groups currently carry out directly for Highland Council waste management are the servicing of re-use containers on our household waste recycling centres (HWRCs). These currently divert around 150 tonnes from 11 HWRCs.
Newstart Highland that took over Home Aid in Caithness is set to lose a £75,000 grant from 2019/20. The Highland council agreed the reduction at its budget meeting on 14th February 2019.
Planning and building warrant income is to be increased over 3 years as part of the Highland council 3 year budget plan. 2019/20 - £600,000 2020/21 - £328,000 2021/22 - £182,000 Total - £110,000,000 The current income target for planning and building control fees is £4.867m.
Savings of £610,000 are being asked from Highland Highlife in addition to inflationary pressures of £900,000 to be absorbed by the organisation. The arms length organisation has proved to be an outstanding success in the few years since it was floated by the council.
Highland councillors reluctantly agreed to range of increase charges under the community services part of the budget. Many of the charges reflect inflationary increases The total of £2.063 million will be rolled out as follows - 2019/20 - £771,000 2020/21 - £.636,000 2021/22 - £656,000 The split is as follows - Export licences for fish were included in the above figures but a change was agreed at the meeting that should make the saving in total.
Additional Income projected £216k of is projected for thenext three years - 2019/20 - £118,000 2020/21 - £58,000 2021/22 - £40,000 Through a proactive approach to lease extensions (with premiums) and increases in rental income the council will seek to maximise the performance of the industrial and investment portfolio, including selling off poor performing industrial sites and focusing investment on high performing, high rental sites and properties. Net income £2.776m - excludes income for the Housing Revenue Account and Inverness Common Good Fund.
The Highland council agrred to slash £258,000 from the budget for Early Years organisations for 2019/20 The current budget for Early Years' Grants is £458k per annum. This is primarily an area-based budget where partners are able to apply for funding for one-off grants.
Councillors today 14th February 2019 agreed to increase the price of school meals despite some councillors pointing out that previous increase last year resulted in reduced number taking the meals. Councillors have little room to help as they did in the past to basically subsidise meals.
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