COUNCIL tenants will have a one-year rent freeze after it was revealed that about half of them have faced financial struggles during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move by East Lothian Council was supported by opposition councillors from the Conservative and SNP groups, who both welcomed the decision by the Labour administration.

It will see earlier proposals of a reduced two per cent rise in rent for 2021-2022 scrapped.

Revealing the proposal by the administration, Councillor Jim Goodfellow said that a reduction in debt charges over the next five years due to Covid-19’s impact on the council’s capital programme had informed the decision.

He said: “Considering that approximately half of our tenants have reported that their ‘financial situation [has] been made worse by Covid-19’, the administration feel that for next year this windfall should be used to allow a one-year rent freeze for all of our tenants.”

The proposed rent freeze was unanimously approved by councillors, with a return to the annual five per cent increase in 2022/23.

The changes also follow the findings of a rent consultation carried out with tenants, which found support for the administration’s two per cent increase fall.

The annual consultation has in the past found high support among tenants for proposed rent rises.

This year, however, more than half of the tenants who took part said their financial situation had been worsened over the last year because of Covid-19.

Just over 27 per cent of tenants reported being furloughed during the pandemic, with 24 per cent saying that their work hours had been reduced and over five per cent saying they had been made redundant.

Councillor Lachlan Bruce, opposition group leader (Con), said: “We were determined to get a rent freeze for tenants.

“This will be a relief for hard-pressed families, it is necessary to give them breathing space to get back on their feet as the light from the Covid tunnel emerges hopefully.”

Councillor Stuart Currie, SNP group leader, said: “We agree with the freeze of rents in East Lothian this year.

“I would like to pay tribute to the administration. They have responded to the views of tenants and that is where it should be.”

The council will meet to set its council tax next week.

The administration had proposed a lower council tax rise of three per cent; however, that was before the Scottish Government announced that funding would be made available to local authorities if they agreed a freeze for the coming year.