Aberdeen council under fire after 47p council tax repayments

A debt-ridden council tenant has been given permission to pay rent arrears at just 47 pence a month for the next 18 years, it emerged today.

The small amounts were discovered in an Aberdeen City Council audit report Picture: Wiki Commons
The small amounts were discovered in an Aberdeen City Council audit report Picture: Wiki Commons

The tenant is one of 771 people who have fallen behind with rent payments while living in properties owned by Aberdeen City Council.

Another city resident has been given permission to pay 2.72 pounds a month until 2034 to pay back money owed to the council.

A local authority report has revealed that 23 of their tenants are paying less than five pounds a month towards their debts.

The new report, prepared for an audit, risk and scrutiny committee meeting states: “In July 2015, there were 771 current payment arrangements in place.

“All but 23 had repayment instalment amounts for the minimum amount of five pounds or above.

“Within those 23 payment arrangements is one arrangement for 47 pence which is payable until 2034, and another repayment amount of £2.72 until 2040.

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“The service advised that if a tenant is unable to pay the minimum amount an income assessment form is completed and a lesser amount is accepted. The service would prefer a lesser contribution than no payment.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Greig called for the repayment arrangements to be continually checked.

The city councillor said: “I think that people will find it shocking that these tenants will be paying this back at such a small amount over so long a period.

“It could prove counter-productive to event collect these funds and disadvantage the council financially chasing up 47 pence a month.”

The report also revealed that more than half of arrears owed by former tenants - 683,000 pounds - had been written off at the end of the 2014/15 financial year.

The council admitted that there had been instances where broken payment arrangements were not identified timeously, resulting in delays.

Missed payments should now be identified by the time the money due has accumulated to £150 due to a new payment system set up in October last year.

The report added: “Guidance has been provided to housing officers to assist them in determining repayment arrangement amounts with tenants to allow for the repayment of arrears.

“There are three suggested minimum payment amounts which are applicable depending on the tenant’s circumstances, the lowest being five per week for tenants in receipt of benefits.

“When a tenant is unable to pay the suggested minimum amount the housing officer will use the Department for Work and Pensions Applicable Amount calculation to determine if the tenant has any surplus income, an expected repayment amount would be 10 per cent of surplus income.

“Within the guidance staff are advised that the repayment arrangements as detailed above are not binding on the housing officer and that they are

encouraged to show flexibility to those on the lowest income levels.”

In 2014/15, 208 people were evicted from their homes after failing to pay rent arrears compared to 130 tenants in the 2013/14 period.