At a full meeting of East Lothian Council today councillors approved a five per cent rent increase for council tenants for 2023/24.
Council heard that a consultation had been carried out at the end of 2022 and the majority of respondents to the survey were supportive of an increase in rent although a higher number indicated they would be comfortable with a three per cent rent increase. However, since the consultation proposals were first established (options were a rent freeze, a three per cent increase or a five per cent increase) further modelling based on new higher interest rates and ongoing cost increases in building materials together with the cumulative impact of the previous two years’ rent freeze, mean that anything less than a five per cent rise would mean a reduction in levels of services and investment priorities would be inevitable.
Councillor Andy Forrest, Cabinet Spokesperson for Housing and Property Maintenance, said:
“This was a really difficult decision for Council to take as we know the pressures on household finances at the moment. However, East Lothian Council rents remain one of the lowest in Scotland and the rise is in line with COSLA’s recommendation that any rent rises be less than £5 per week.
“We are striking a balance between keeping rents affordable and being able to maintain services for our tenants such as repairs and maintenance, modernisation programmes including kitchens and bathrooms and, of course, our commitment to increasing our stock of council houses by investing in new builds. We know from the results of the consultation that the majority of tenants think the rent they pay is good value for money with 96 per cent of respondents agreeing that we should continue to modernise our council houses and 89 per cent supportive of our programme to build new council houses.”
The rent increase follows rent freezes in both 2022/23 and 2021/22 and will increase the current average weekly rent from £72.61 to £76.24.
Councillor Forrest added:
“I understand the financial difficulties that some tenants continue to experience. If anyone is having difficulty paying their rent they can get confidential advice from our Rent Income Team on 01620 827528.
“We have also produced a leaflet specifically about available financial support with the cost of living crisis, which can be downloaded from our website.”
Council also approved a Housing Revenue Account budget for 2023/24 of just over £37 million, an increase of around £2.7 million on last year, which will be spent on service costs including repairs and staffing. The Capital budget of just under £34 million will be invested in new council housing, modernisation, extensions and energy efficiency improvements to existing council properties.