Council housing rents will be frozen in Aberdeen for the next two years – if the ruling administration can pass its budget this afternoon.
The Conservative, Aberdeen Labour and independent coalition in charge of the city council are now outnumbered, as today marks the return of convicted sex offender Alan Donnelly as an unaligned independent after his year-long suspension.
Last night, council chiefs exclusively told The P&J of plans to freeze council rents for the next two years, to help families struggling financially after the year-long pandemic.
Housing and miscellaneous rents – on properties such as garages – and service charges will be frozen until after the next council election.
It will save the average local authority tenant around £350 a year.
Administration spokeswoman, Sandra Macdonald, said: “We are acutely aware of the financial hardship that Covid-19 has had on our tenants this year, especially those with families, with many struggling to either pay their rent, or energy bills or put food on the table.
“These are significant savings for any family and twice the savings proposed by the SNP.”
Last weekend, the SNP – the largest single group on the council – proposed a year-long freeze, something Liberal Democrat Ian Yuill is also expected to bring forward this afternoon due to the “exceptional circumstances” of this year.
SNP housing spokesman, Alex McLellan, said: “I am pleased that following our announcement last week, the administration are now looking to bring forward a rent freeze as well – protecting our tenants in what has been an incredibly difficult year simply has to be our priority.”
Council needs to cut £30m in spending to balance Aberdeen’s budget
The administration has already committed to freezing council tax – and ruled out price increases in council services as well as closing libraries, cutting funding for people in poverty and increasing the cost of parking permits fives times over.
They will this afternoon reveal how they intend to save the £30 million needed to balance the books.
Last night SNP leader Alex Nicoll hit out at those plans, instead revealing his group would look to commit money to a “much-needed” extension for Bucksburn Academy.
Liberal Democrats want to budget for millions more in spending on ‘crumbling’ Aberdeen roads
The recently shelved expansion of the school will also feature in the Liberal Democrat budget – which leader Ian Yuill said would focus on education, the environment and the city’s “crumbling roads and pavements”.
Mr Yuill told The P&J: “We believe it’s important Aberdeen’s children have the best possible education and that doesn’t just mean the great staff we have, but quality buildings for them to work in.
“We will propose multi-million-pound investments in the urgently needed Bucksburn Academy extension and the work needed to relocate St Peter’s School.
“We will also propose significant investment in improving how the council looks after the city’s open spaces, building up electric vehicle charging infrastructure and spending millions more on resurfacing roads and pavements and on more equipment to clear them of snow and ice.”
His group’s opposition to the £30 brown bin collection charge – the so-called garden tax – will continue as they push to abolish it.
The administration and SNP, however, look poised to maintain it.