Councillors approve three per cent rise for Highland Council rents; Fears over impact on Universal Credit claimants
Members of Highland Council's housing and property committee have approved a three per cent rise for council house rents this year.
Council officers said the rise would generate just short of £2.4 million in extra funds when applied to almost 14,000 properties across the region, including Gypsy and Traveller site pitches.
A report prepared for today's meeting said that, over the last five years, council rents for Highland have been increasing at a much lower rate than either nationally or as compared to social housing organisations in the region.
Council officer David Goldie told councillors: "We need this council rent increase to continue to deliver the services we have become accustomed to."
The rent rise remains a proposal at this stage.
It will go on to be debated at full council as part of this year's budget discussions.
After the rise was approved SNP councillor Emma Roddick raised concerns, claiming that arrears from those claiming Universal Credit could outweigh the benefits of the increase.
While the council has projected an increase in council rents, alongside increased housing stock, could generate an extra £2.39 million, at the last reporting rent arrears sat at £2.5m.
Cllr Roddick said: "This council has been very public about the fact that massive issues with Universal Credit have contributed to the dire rent arrears situation that we are in.
"Of council tenants currently in arrears, 2014 are on Universal Credit. If we apply the average increase of £2.26 per week to these tenants, then that is £236,685.28 that we might not see.
"People voted for the three per cent increase during the consultation because they were told £460,000 would be spent on improving services.
"If the council cannot guarantee that the projected increase of £2.4 million will not be eaten up by increasing arrears, which, at the last reporting, sat at £2.5 million, then this is a false economy."