Council tax and rent freeze

Thursday February 25th 2021

Midlothian Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Council tax will be frozen and rent increases postponed for the coming year in Midlothian.

Councillors voted to halt a planned increase of 3 per cent in council tenants’ rent, as well as freeze any increase on council tax at a virtual meeting today.

Officers told elected members that putting the rent increase on hold for tenants would have a “negligible” effect on its future plans for investment in housing.

And a further report revealed that the Scottish Government had provided funds to cover the equivalent of a 3.1 per cent council tax increase if they agreed to freeze payments.

The decision to scrap a rent increase for the coming year received cross-party support from councillors.

Councillor Stephen Curran, Labour, said that the impact of the Covid-19 crisis was still to be seen from an economic point of view and welcomed the additional support for families.

He said: “Many tenants face uncertainties and to continue with rent increase at this time would simply be wrong.

“It would only make a bad situation worse for many residents.”

His view was backed by Councillor Catherine Johnstone, SNP, who added: “Our residents have faced enormous challenges and I think the rent increase could have been the final straw for many families.”

Councillors were told during the meeting that rent arrears had grown by £500,000 since April last year – an increase of 31 per cent of money owed to the council.

Officers warned that going ahead with the proposed rent rise created a risk “that may lead to housing applicants and tenants on lower incomes being unable to afford the rents”.

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