Former and current Shropshire council house tenants owe more than £314,000 in arrears, new figures reveal.
But the authority says that is an improvement on the £502,263 that was owed on its 4,000 properties at the same time last year.
The figures, which cover the period until March 31, are revealed in a report to members of the council’s audit committee, which was due to meet at Shirehall this afternoon.
At the meeting, members will be told the authority has set aside £272,000 to cover bad debts.
In the first quarter of the year the rent collection rate was nearly 95 per cent – although the council says it is on course to get rent payments off 99 per cent of tenants.
In 2009, the authority was owed £674,347 and had £398,249 set aside in bad debt provision.
The report adds: “Since 2009/10 collection rates have been improving and the annual target rate has been increased year on year.
“While performance for the first quarter of the current year is encouraging, the current economic climate and potential impact of the Government proposals for reform of the benefits system will place additional pressure on our ability to maintain the recent improvement in collection rate.
“For these reasons the target rate for 2012/13 has been held at the 2011/12 level of 99 per cent.”
The council owns 4,000 properties in Oswestry and Bridgnorth.
Since July it has been piloting a scheme for direct payment of benefits to 400 tenants.
It is also encouraging tenants to pay rent by direct debit.
Some 177 people have signed up, and the scheme is to be extended over the coming weeks.
The impact on the collection rate will be monitored.
The report concludes: “Improvements continue to be made on collection rates and the level of rent arrears.
“However, the ability to maintain this trend is uncertain in light of on-going difficulties in the wider economy and the potential implications of direct payment of housing benefit.
“Based on current performance the council has adequate bad debt provision.”