Midlothian council tax frozen and rent increases postponed
Councillors voted to halt a planned increase of three per cent in council tenants’ rent, as well as freeze any increase on council tax at a virtual meeting.
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 the Midlothian councillors.
Councillor Stephen Curran (Lab) 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 Midlothian 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”.
Despite the freeze on council tax, our local councillors went on to approve an ambitious capital programme which will see record investment of over £0.567 billion over the next four years in Midlothian, with a further £263 million of local projects in the pipeline.
Projects approved include £10.5 million for the delivery of a revised digital learning programme to make sure all schoolchildren can get online; while a new £12 million care facility at Polton Street in Bonnyrigg was also approved.