East Devon council property rent to rise

Example of a cash starved local council grappling with a balancing act – Owl

Rob Kershaw, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Rent on council properties in East Devon will rise seven per cent in the next financial year, while its share of the council tax is increasing by £5 a year.

However, anyone in arrears can now receive up to £25 from East Devon District Council after it received a share of a £100 million government grant.

Just over £216,000 was given to the district, which decided last month that working age tax claimants in the lowest band of income will no longer need to pay council tax from 1 April this year.

East Devon is set to use £90,000 of that fund, with the rest aimed at providing further support for those in arrears, and helping those who hit financial trouble and need help paying their bills.

At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday [1 February], Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent East Devon Alliance, Yarty) said he is grateful for the support people in the district are receiving, but he criticised central government for continually putting pressure on local authorities.

“There are huge financial pressures on residents, and this is a welcome help,” he said. “It will enable us to help those in dire financial need.

“We, as an authority, are expected to do more with less,” he said. “And we manage admirably. We manage far better than other local authorities. But the pressure is always building, government keeps taking away, keeps giving more things for us to do, abrogating their responsibilities down through the tiers of local government.

“And we perform admirably. This is welcome, it would be lovely if the government stuck a nought on the end of that, because then we could do even more and help those people who need our help.”

Cllr Jack Rowland (Independent East Devon Alliance, Seaton) joined Cllr Hayward in thanking the council’s officers for “producing rabbits out of hats” in delivering the grant to East Devon at short notice.

“The government notified this council on 23 December and expected this to be in place to be able to issue with the annual bills issued next month,” he said. “So the time scales for getting this in place once again are a real challenge.”

Cllr Geoff Jung (Independent East Devon Alliance, Woodbury and Lympstone) is glad that those living in council-owned properties on increased rent can at least receive council tax support.

“I was reluctant to vote for an increase in rent and rates, it feels uneasy at this time,” he added. “But this goes someway to resolving the issue that was raised earlier about people who are less well-off and who sadly are finding it difficult, and this proposal seems to help my conscience on this that it will help people in this society.”