Row over new leases for Falkirk high flats’ common rooms

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Falkirk Council’s decision to impose new leases on elderly tenants of the town’s high flats – which will force them to pay for heating, lighting and water in the buildings’ common rooms – has sparked anger.

At a meeting of Falkirk Council on Wednesday, fears were raised that raising costs in this way could mean communal rooms being forced to close – but council bosses behind the move say that is not the case.

Labour councillor Pat Reid and SNP councillor Lorna Binnie raised the issue. Both councillors have also pledged to meet with council tenants of the high flats – which are reserved for elderly people in Falkirk – saying they were very concerned to hear of anything that might impact on people using the common rooms that are in each building.

Pat Reid said: “For the life of me I can’t understand this! These are council buildings, the rooms were supplied by Falkirk Council. The flats are different from any other community building – you don’t get to live there unless you are 60 years old at least and most of the residents are in their late 80s and 90s.

“It’s a different community and should be treated differently.”

Councillor Reid suggested that if the housing department refused to meet the cost of providing common rooms, perhaps social work could.

Councillor Lorna Binnie agreed with her colleague across the chamber.

She said: “This has caused a lot of upset among vulnerable members of our community. We talk a lot about health – about exercise and keeping fit and eating healthily – but it is even more important that people get out and about and engage with other people.”

Stuart Ritchie, director of housing, said the rent proposed was nominal and groups would be given a grant to help meet running costs. He added that the process of updating leases had been ongoing for several years and that the changes were necessary to modernise the leases.

He said: “It was highlighted that there were differences between how these groups operated, in terms of paying for utilities, insurance, and other obligations for holding events in the rooms, including cleaning.

“The new leases ensure all groups are working in the same way.”