Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Council seeks aid with its debt

Houses of Parliament
The delegation will meet with the minister to outline their case

A delegation from Highland Council is meeting a senior Treasury official in Westminster about easing its housing debt, BBC Scotland has learned.

The local authority is spending 15m a year on loan charges to service its 146m housing debt.

It has said that if the UK Government "eased that burden" it could commit more money to improving housing stock.

Highland said it might even be able to resume council house building, adding that this would create new jobs.

Housing and social work chairwoman Margaret Davidson is to make the case to Ian Pearson, economic secretary to the Treasury, at the meeting in London on Thursday.

Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey, set up the meeting.

New houses

In 2006, Highland Council tenants voted against transferring ownership of 14,500 homes from the local authority to a private housing association.

More than 60% of tenants voted and 59.7% were against plans to transfer to Highland Housing Association.

Both Highland Council leaders and executive ministers had urged tenants to support the proposal, which would have seen the authority's 160m debt at the time wiped out by the Treasury and 1,000 more houses built.

In January, Highland Council said it wanted to build houses again, but could not afford to take part in a government scheme aimed at encouraging authorities to do so.

It said it did not make "financial sense" until it reduced its high loan debt.

It said the Scottish Government subsidy available would, "at best", cover about 20% of supplying new council houses.

However, the equivalent housing association grant subsidy would be nearer 70%.

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SEE ALSO
Council cannot afford new homes
15 Jan 09 |  Highlands and Islands
Tenants reject housing transfer
22 Nov 06 |  Highlands and Islands

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