HL Deb 03 February 1992 vol 535 cc4-5WA
Lord Norrie

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which 20 local authorities have the highest level of rent arrears.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Baroness Blatch)

I have today arranged for information on rent arrears in all English local authorities, as at 1st April 1991, to be placed in the Library.

On this date total rent arrears owing to housing authorities in England amounted to some £430 million, representing 8.5 per cent. of the total rent collectable in 1990–91. This is an increase of £70 million (18 per cent.) compared with 1st April 1990. The 20 authorities with the poorest performance, in terms of arrears as a percentage of their rent roll, account for 50 per cent. of the total. Of these, 10 account for £156 million (37 per cent.) of the national total and all have arrears of over 20 per cent. of the rent collectable, the highest (Southwark) having estimated rent arrears of 38.5 per cent. London accounts for £200 million, 46 per cent. of the total, and has eight of the 10 and 12 of the 20 poorest performing authorities.

These figures show that the position in far too many authorities has worsened since 1989–90. Authorities with similar holdings of stock and rent levels, and subject to similar economic pressures, turn in widely different levels of performance. The explanation for this lies in the quality of their management. The annual reports which most authorities have now supplied to their tenants, and to the Department of the Environment, show considerable variation in management standards. Efficiency at collecting rent is the most fundamental of these standards. Authorities cannot hope to deliver effective services to their tenants if they do not collect the rent which pays for those services.

It is particularly disappointing that there was no overall change in the position of London at March last year, though some authorities have taken vigorous action to improve their performance.

All councils have a duty to look after the interests of all their tenants. Better performance in collecting rents will increase resources available for housing and reduce pressure for rent increases.