Posted: Thu 27th Jul 2023

Flintshire Council chief executive assures tenant support amid rent struggles

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jul 27th, 2023

The chief executive of Flintshire Council has given assurances every effort is made to keep council tenants in their homes if they are struggling to pay rent.

Neal Cockerton gave the assurance at a meeting of the authority’s governance and audit committee after questions were asked about rent arrears, and the support available to tenants struggling to pay.

One of the questions for the council’s chief finance officer came from Connah’s Quay Central Cllr Bernie Attridge (Ind), asking about the loss of income and loss of council tax due to the council currently having 264 voids (empty properties being worked on between tenants).

It followed a similar question Cllr Attridge asked in a housing scrutiny committee a fortnight earlier, whether rent arrears were spiralling out of control – due to being in excess of £2m – something which was refuted by senior officers at that meeting.

Speaking at the governance and audit committee meeting he said: “It is scrutinised (at housing scrutiny committee) but there I made a comment that I believe rent arrears is out of control and the senior officer who was at the meeting didn’t think it was.

“Do you personally see rent arrears as out of control?”

Responding, Mr Ferguson said that although it was on the increase, he did not feel rent arrears is out of control.

“Rent arrears, I think is a national issue”, he said.

“I don’t think it’s out of control. It is flagged as a ‘red risk’ because it is increasing and there are competing issues that impact on the ability to pay for our tenants and contract holders.

“We’ve got bad debt provision in line with current figures. That can be afforded from within the HRA (housing revenue account), that already accounted for.

“Obviously the debt recovery team are really on top of things regarding doing the best they can in the circumstances.”

Committee lay member Reverend Brian Harvey asked about intervention and support available to those struggling to pay.

He said: “I just wonder what that consists of and how rigorous and robust that is?”

This was answered by the council’s chief executive who said national policy not to evict someone into homelessness is something the council takes seriously.

Mr Cockerton said: “In terms of interventions in relation to rent arrears and housing, there’s quite an extensive amount of intervention that is undertaken through a number of officers in the service, in terms of finance, in terms of the recovery team.

“Clearly Welsh Government policy is not to evict anyone to homelessness and that’s the overriding objective that we follow.

“There’s quite a team that works with those contract holders in relation to supporting them to stay in their homes as long as possible, purely because if that doesn’t work, they will present to the council as homeless – and that has a greater impact on the council’s overall services and individuals themselves.”

By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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