THE cash-strapped Highland Council is proposing an astronomical rise in the cost of renting its garage sites and garages, it has emerged.
A review and consultation exercise is underway but the authority is looking at increasing the rentals, currently standing at a ceiling of £52 per annum – £1 a week – by 1700 per cent.
The news has astounded north residents, with one householder claiming it is “extortionate”.
Ward councillor Deirdre Mackay deemed it “outrageous”.
But Highland Council said it would give them more money to carry out much-needed repairs and improvements to its garage stock.
The authority has 2742 garages and garage sites held as assets on its housing revenue account (HRA).
These garage lock ups and plots can be rented by Highland Council tenants or non-tenants, but the majority are let to non-tenants.
Councillors discussed increasing the rent for its council houses and garage sites when the community services committee met in February.
It was agreed that house rents should rise by one per cent, but members felt there was a commercial opportunity to increase the rent for garages and garage sites by much more.
Letters have gone out informing garage tenants about the suggested increase, asking for their opinion.
The intention is to increase the cost of renting garages and garage plots to private householders from £52 per annum (including VAT) to £780 plus VAT – bringing the total cost to £936 a year.
Council house tenants will face a £780 per annum bill for garages and a £561 per annum bill for garage sites.
Tenants have been asked to let the authority know if they would be happy to pay the increased charge it it meant their garage or site would be improved.
But Bill Yates, Johnstone Place, Brora, said: “I feel it is a form of extortion.
“We rented a garage plot from the council and put a garage on it. Now, if we feel that we cannot afford to pay the £15 a week to rent it, we will have to give it up.”
A Highland Council spokesperson said: “We have written to everyone who rents a garage or garage site from us asking what they think of the idea of increasing rents so that we have more income to fund repairs and improvements to garages.
“This consultation will inform further consideration of options on future charges and services in relation to council-owned garages and garage sites. We would encourage anyone who has received the consultation letter to reply to us to ensure their opinions are heard.”
Ward councillor Deirdre Mackay said: “The level of increase being proposed is frankly outrageous and it is really important that people respond to the consultation and make Highland Council aware of their feelings.”