Council tenants face 2.5% rise in rent charges amid soaring costs

Aberdeenshire Council's communities committee recommended the increase be approved on Friday.

Aberdeenshire Council tenants face 2.5% rise in rent charges amid soaring costs iStock

Around 13,000 council tenants in Aberdeenshire are facing a 2.5% increase in rent charges – while heat and lighting costs are expected to soar by 75%.

The local authority’s communities committee recommended the increase be approved on Friday.

If given the go-ahead, a “substantial” increase in heat and light charges could see bills hike by nearly £20 a week.

For example, an average tenant currently paying £26.41 would have to stump up £46.24.

Meanwhile, the 2.5% rent increase equates to a £2.19 rise per week for an average two-bedroom property.

The proposed increases came following “extensive” analysis and engagement with tenants.

Housing manager Andrew Mackie said the proposals were set against a “barrage of economic pressures” and a “perfect storm” of increasing inflation, rising energy costs and decreasing rental income.

Housing chief Rob Simpson said sheltered housing tenants were keen to avoid a significant jump in charges and preferred to see a steady increase over time.

He also revealed that a rent freeze would lead to a £1.5 million pressure that would have to be “absorbed” in the council’s housing revenue account.

Mr Simpson explained this could see a reduction in the grounds maintenance budget or cutting 15% of its staffing budget – meaning up to 50 jobs would be lost.

But there are worries that cutting staff would lead to a “significant” reduction in service provision and lead to wider income pressures.

Mr Simpson said this could be relieved by decreasing work in its capital plan.

If the works were to be reduced it would amount to the equivalent of providing 18 fewer new build affordable homes, 400 fewer kitchen replacements or 350 fewer heating upgrades.

Engagement sessions have been held with tenants about the changes and the council has said it is committed to continuing discussions moving forward.

Interviews with 820 residents across the region revealed 61% were “getting by” on current rates, while 19% said they were coping “poorly”.

Meanwhile, 49% were in favour of a rent freeze while 31% backed the proposed 2.5% increase.

Councillor Glen Reynolds said: “In a perfect world one can absolutely understand the reasoning behind a rent freeze approach.

“But it would have a serious impact on the level and degree of protection of our tenants, that as a social landlord, we are obliged to offer.”

A final decision on the proposed increases will be made by full council when it meets on February 9.