Falkirk Council rent to increase as investment agreed

Falkirk council rent is set to rise by 2 per cent this year, councillors have confirmed, as it was agreed to spend £347 million over the next five years to carry out improvements to existing homes and provide additional homes.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 4:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th January 2022, 9:09 am
Council tenants will see their rent rise.

A meeting of Falkirk Council today agreed to the programme which will see £38.7m being spent this year alone on improvements to around 6800 properties.

Councillors also agreed that rents will increase by 2 per cent from April 1 for Falkirk Council’s 16,700 tenants – an average rise of £1.44 per week.

Several councillors spoke about the financial pressures that many tenants are currently under and they were told that the impact on rent arrears was being closely monitored.

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Members also heard that more than half of all tenants will be fully protected from any increase as they get housing benefit or Universal Credit.

The improvement works will include £6.5m on re-roofing, roughcasting and £3.75m on replacement kitchens and bathrooms, while £15m will be spent in the next year on replacement doors and windows.

In total, £7m will be spent on energy efficiency works, with around 1,100 properties each year getting new heating systems at a cost of £2m as well as heating upgrades to three high rise blocks.

Further work will also be done on replacement cladding at Glenfuir Court.

Councillors also heard that work will start on the £5.5m project to provide more cost-effective and efficient heating systems for tenants in off-gas areas.

The installation of a gas infrastructure should start in 2022/23 and be finished in 2023/24.

In the areas where a gas supply is not viable, alternative heating solutions, such as air source heat pumps are being considered.

The housing investment is separate from the council’s other budgets and any revenue raised by rents can only be reinvested in housing programmes.

The five-year plan also includes investment of £25.8m to deliver more than 633 new-build homes in locations including Hallglen, Bonnybridge, Denny, Banknock, Polmont, Bainsford, Stenhousemuir, Torwood and Langlees.

Each year, the council will also continue to buy back around 80 former council houses at a cost of £7m.

Councillor Gordon Hughes, spokesperson for Housing said: “We have yet again had to deliver improvements to our housing stock against the backdrop of COVID-19.

“While it was a very challenging year we delivered a wide range of improvements across our housing stock.

“The rent increase is in line with the feedback from tenants and aims to balance an acceptable increase relative to the levels of investment and improvement carried out on our houses and allows us to keep our properties at a high standard.”

Based on 2020/21 rent levels, Falkirk Council had the sixth lowest rent compared to the other 25 local authority landlords in Scotland.

Members of all three political groups supported the spend, although Labour councillor Allyson Black said she felt there were particular problems in Grangemouth that needed serious investment.

Councillor Joan Coombes also asked the council to look once again at how they might help tenants in off-gas areas as they wait for new systems to be installed.

She praised the report and the work of housing staff but added: “There are times we let people down and we should be big enough to accept that and try to do something about it.”