Planned rises to council tax and rents are coming into effect as planned during the coronavirus pandemic, Dundee City Council has confirmed.
The Scottish Government has set aside £50m for local councils to cope with an expected rise in requests for council tax reductions and benefits.
In addition, Dundee City Council has suspended chasing those who are drumming up debts in rent or council tax due to being either made redundant or furloughed by crisis-stricken employers.
However, it has justified imposing the rises agreed at the start of the year to help essential services cope during “unprecedented and difficult times”.
Council tax is responsible for approximately 18%, or just under a fifth, of Dundee City Council’s annual income.
A local authority spokesman said: “Staff across the council are working hard to ensure services are delivered but this is only possible because of the way that local government is funded, including the contribution made by the council tax.
“Everyone is facing major challenges and being asked to make whatever contribution they can, whether that be as a key worker, volunteer, staying at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) or by paying our contribution towards delivering essential council services at the time when they are needed most.
“Increases in rent and council tax that have previously been agreed are therefore being implemented.
“Various customer support and advice services are continuing to operate. Applications for benefits and grants can be made online or by telephone.”
The council is not alone in imposing rises. The Tele contacted a number of “sister” councils that have comparatively similar levels of deprivation to Dundee.
Of those that responded to the Tele’s request for comment, North Ayrshire, East Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire and Eilean Siar (Western Isles) confirmed they were imposing council tax and rent rises as planned.
An Eilean Siar spokesman said: “Our council tax rise is proceeding as planned at 4.84%.
“Anyone experiencing difficulties should contact the council.”
A North Ayrshire Council spokeswoman said: “For Council Tax and all sundry debt, we have suspended all follow up recovery actions both from the Council and Sheriff Officers so citizens will not be getting chased for recovery with reminders, final notices etc.”
A spokeswoman for East Ayrshire said: “We can confirm that our council tax and rent increases will be going ahead as planned.
“However, we have measures in place to assist residents who are experiencing financial difficulties at this time.”
A North Lanarkshire spokeswoman said: “Although we are continuing to collect council tax and rent, anyone who is struggling to pay because their income has recently reduced, may be eligible for a reduction in council tax or housing benefit. We offer a range of financial advice and people are advised to use the online calculator and application form for support.”
City housing associations are following suit in imposing rises as planned – but say support is on offer for those who need it.
Barry Moore, chief executive of Abertay Housing Association, said: “I can confirm that the Association applied a 2.5% rent increase on 1 April 2020.”
A spokeswoman for Cairn Housing Association said: “It is important to note that, as a not-for-profit charity and housing association, rent is our primary source of income.
“Our approach is to target support, advice and practical assistance to individual tenants in difficulties as a result of the current emergency situation.”
A Hillcrest spokesman said said: “While we are unable to cancel this year’s rent increase which keeps us abreast of inflation, we have ensured that the increase was as low as possible, and it was one of the lowest rises in the sector.
“We are very conscious of the difficulties that tenants may be experiencing at the moment. We have an extensive range of specialist support available for those who are struggling financially.”