East Dunbartonshire Council agrees £28m housing revenue budget

East Dunbartonshire Council agreed its housing revenue and capital budget for the year ahead at its special council meeting last week after approving a rent increase of just 0.5%.

The housing capital budget for 2021/22 is £28.27 million, which includes:

  • £4.75m investment in meeting the Scottish Housing Quality standards and energy efficiency standards and improving the safety and liveability of council houses
  • £12.45m on the development of new affordable housing through Affordable Housing Investment Programme
  • £5.37m to fund purchasing new homes using turnkey arrangements from developers
  • £3.2m to fund purchasing properties from the open market
  • £2.4m for the implementation of a new Integrated Housing management system.

Joint council leader Andrew Polson said: “Our capital programme, both for 2021/22 and our five-year capital overview, demonstrates our commitment to continually improving our current housing stock, ensuring it meets both quality and energy efficiency standards. Our capital housing budget also sees substantial investment to expand our housing stock through both new builds and a range of purchase schemes.

“Overall we have delivered a housing budget that recognises our current and future need. Our revenue and capital investment priorities demonstrate a balanced budget for the year ahead and take account of the truly challenging circumstances our tenants currently face.”

Taking account of £1.65m employee costs, £3.45m for property and other operating costs, central support totalling £2.45m, debt charges of £3.48m and assumed borrowing of £13.5m to support the housing capital investment programme, the income required from housing rent for the budget was £14.57m.

Joint council leader Vaughan Moody said: “Mindful of the challenging financial impact of Covid-19 on our communities, we have been able to keep our rent increases to a bare minimum of just 0.5% which equates to the average weekly rent over a 48 week period of just 42p. This is well below our benchmarking comparisons and is largely supported by our tenants.

“We are also establishing a Hardship Fund to support those whose tenancies are at risk due to financial hardship exacerbated by the pandemic. This builds on our ongoing council commitment to support the most vulnerable in our communities and tackle financial deprivation and poverty.”

The local authority also agreed its General Revenue Budget for 2021/22 and its revised 10-year capital investment plan for the area.

With estimated expenditure of just over £268.1m for 2021/22 and income of £260.6m, councillors agreed to balance a financial gap of £7.5m through the use of reserves whilst a number of options are progressed, these include:

  • Using a proportion of capital grant for revenue purposes,
  • a loans fund repayment holiday,
  • the use of capital receipts to fund revenue expenditure, and
  • a review of service contracts arrangements.

Funding to offset an increase in Council Tax was accepted, but with a plea that this funding should be baselined to avoid substantial increases in the future.

Councillor Polson explained: “We have committed to both a Council Tax freeze and to no increases to fees and charges across council services. And whilst we welcome all funding to address the unprecedented impact of the global pandemic, it is essential that all local government additional Covid-19 costs are met.

“In their report last month, Audit Scotland estimated that the funding announced in November 2020 met only 60-70% of the estimated £767m financial cost of Covid-19 on Scottish councils. It is therefore critical that the Scottish Government commits to this additional Council Tax funding year on year or we will potentially face even more significant rises in the future.” 

The revised 10-year capital programme for 2021/22 signalled a commitment to significant investment across all of East Dunbartonshire.

Councillor Moody highlighted: “Our ambitious capital programme continues our commitment to build a new Boclair Academy and a new Allander Leisure and Adult Day Care Centre in Bearsden, a new Additional Support Needs School and a Community Sports Complex in Kirkintilloch.

“In addition, there is a new £1m town centre improvement fund for Milngavie, a commitment to undertake a feasibility study to build a new Lenzie Academy and a further £5m across the programme for the schools ICT budget in recognition of the connectivity and hardware improvements critical to support the learning environment.”

Having proposed the council budget recommendations, Councillor Moody sought cross party support to write to the First Minister to demand a fair funding settlement for local government, to both continue to respond to current community needs, and to work with those communities to recover from the impacts of this pandemic.

He added, “I’m pleased we reached cross party agreement to insist on fair funding for local government, which is critical for us to deliver the services our communities need and deserve.

“We will also be emphasising that whilst we agree with the key principles highlighted in the Independent Review of Adult Social Care, it is local councils with our local knowledge and expertise and our local democratic accountability that are the organisations best placed to deliver on these principles.” 

The council also committed to a consultation exercise later this year to seek community and stakeholder views on the budget and service priorities for the organisation as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillor Polson added: “We believe that our revenue and capital budget decisions truly offer the best possible outcomes for the people of East Dunbartonshire for the year ahead. And I’d encourage all of our residents to engage with us when we seek their views later this year on our future service and funding priorities. We will undertake this consultation when we have a clearer position of the continuing Covid situation.”

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