Housing budget agreed

Councillors met last Thursday (February 14) and agreed the council’s housing revenue budget, including rents and charges for the next year, alongside setting its main budget.

Members agreed to increase council house rents by an average of £2.59 a week and heard that the service had consulted tenants and received endorsement for rent levels from members of the Social Work and Housing Committee.

The increase by 4.5% will be fixed for three years and ensures that Aberdeenshire rents continue to be below the Scottish average.

Councillors also heard that as part of the most recent review of the housing business plan around 300 additional new homes have been proposed to be built over the next six years in Aberdeenshire.

The report to councillors also highlighted that the service is exceeding Scottish Housing Quality Standard targets in the condition of its existing housing stock.

Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Social Work and Housing Committee Councillor Karen Clark said that in return for their rent tenants will continue to get a high quality housing service, excellent repairs and maintenance, upgrade works and more new homes.

Vice chair of the Social Work and Housing Committee Councillor Alisan Norrie said: “Aberdeenshire’s rent charge currently compares well with other local authorities, which continue to be lower than most Housing Association rents.

Cllr Norrie added: “The Business Plan shows we have a forward thinking approach to service delivery, excellent financial management and a clear focus on continuous improvement where our tenants are at the heart of decision making on all aspects of service delivery.”

Councillor Anne Allan said that she was pleased to note that provision had been made for 300 new homes and that despite the rent increase was reassured that tenants were satisfied that the council offered value for money.

Councillors approved a range of other charges including sheltered housing property charges, heating and lighting, garage rents and temporary accommodation.

Service charges in homeless temporary accommodation will be reduced by an average of 5.2%

No increase to sheltered housing charges related to energy costs

Inflationary increases to the management charge of 20p per week and the service charge by 5p a week has been agreed for sheltered housing

An increase of 4.5% to £67.25 per for the Greenbanks Travelling Persons Caravan Site was approved

In addition to discussion around rents and charges, councillors were advised that the Housing and Social Work Service is preparing for the impact of welfare benefit reform on vulnerable people as well as on wider service and council processes.

Members learned that from April 1, 2013 around 840 tenants in social housing will be affected by the changes to housing benefit in relation to the introduction of the Social Housing Size Criteria.