Moray’s council tenants may enjoy some of the lowest rents in Scotland – but they are also living in an area where earnings are amongst the lowest in the country.
That was highlighted by the Moray Green candidate in the forthcoming general election as he pondered the local authority budget announcement this week, which revealed a 4.5% increase in rents – nine times the rate of inflation.
“The leap in Council tenants’ rent will come as an unwelcome surprise to many, and while it may be the case that we have some of the lowest rents in the country we also live in one of the lowest waged areas of the country,” Green candidate James MacKessack-Leitch said.
While welcoming the fact that their were no major cuts in services in the budget Mr MacKessack-Leitch was wary of the future for the region, with only a promise of greater cuts to come in future years – while there remained a “substantial gap” in the Council’s Capital plan with around £130million required to bring properties up to standard.
He said: “There has also been little attempt to close the gap in the Councils capital budget, but scrapping plans for the proposed Elgin Western Link Road would be a great start and save many millions.
“We would also suggest investing in solar panels for social housing – simultaneously giving the Council a long term income, and reducing hard pressed tenants’ energy bills.”
The local convener for the Green Party added that local councillors clearly have very little power to do a great deal more than “tinker around the edges” in setting their budgets, with 79% of their funding and power over Council Tax being controlled by the Scottish Government.
He added: “With little power and dwindling resources it is vital we look to restructure local government to be more reflective of local aspirations, more sustainable in the long term, and more accountable overall.
“With the coming devolution of further powers to Holyrood from Westminster, now more than ever we need strong voices to make sure that the Scottish Government does not continue to be a centralising blockage, and take the opportunity to make sure our Council has the power to govern and become locally accountable.”