LEADERS of Highland Council are renewing calls to the UK Government to write off the local authority’s multi-million pound housing debt.
They plan to adopt similar arguments to those used by Shetland Islands Council, which saw more than half of their historic debts cleared yesterday.
The Shetland debt was built up during the 1970s when the authority paid for new houses for workers building the Sullom Voe oil terminal. The outstanding £36m debt has now been cut to £16m, staving off a threat of rent rises for council tenants.
Highland Council say they also had to meet housing demand in the 1970s from workers employed by oil fabrication yards and smelters in the region.
The housing debt currently stands at about £150 million, which forces the local authority to pay out £15 million a year in interest repayments.
Councillor Dave Fallows, chairman of the council’s finance, housing and resources committee, described it as a “millstone around our necks” which prevents the authority from investing in much-needed new homes for the region.