Fife councillor claims residents having to choose between eating, heating or rent

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A Glenrothes councillor has said increasing numbers of tenants in the town are having to chose whether to forgo food in order to keep a roof over their heads.

Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch councillor John Wincott said: “There are worries for those struggling financially, with stark choices over whether to eat, heat or keep their homes. That terrifies me.

“It’s an awful position that an increasing number of people are finding themselves in, and all this despite billions in unclaimed benefits, it’s a travesty.”

His comments came as a report on the level of debt faced by the Fife authority was presented to Glenrothes Area Committee.

Fife Council’s outstanding debt in Glenrothes has risen to more than £700,000 for 2015-16 with nearly 1500 tenants now finding themselves owing the authority money.

The number of tenants in arrears rose to 1496 for the period with the outstanding value of debt increasing by £70,000 to a total of £707,686.

558 tenants now owe between £250-£1500, with 96 having arrears over £1500.

Fife Council is a social landlord for nearly 30,000 across the region.

The debt collection team improved overall rent collection levels to 98.5 per cent across Fife for the period but now fear the future introduction of Universal credit and other welfare reforms could see an explosion in levels of debt, despite increases in efficiency.

“Most of the problems attributing to debt is because of Universal Credit and benefit reforms,” Les Robertson, head of Revenue and Commercial Services told councillors.

“We anticipate the legislation to impact hugely on the level of debt, with estimates that the current of £4 million could double to £8 million in the years to come,” he added.