Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing.

Paul McGrath

Question:

354 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government if the differential rent scheme as operated by local authorities in assessing rent for council houses is uniform across all local authorities; if there are variations, the details thereof; and the payments, for example, back to work, community employment schemes, which are exempt from being included for these rent assessments. [19336/03]

The making and amending of rent schemes is the responsibility of local authorities as an integral part of their housing man agement functions, subject to certain broad principles laid down by my Department.

Adherence to these principles, within which authorities have wide discretion as to the types of income to be taken into account in the assessment of rents and how to deal with hardship cases, allowances for dependent children, poverty traps and any other anomalies that arise in individual cases, ensures that rents are determined on the basis of tenants' ability to pay.

As local authorities have full discretion on the model of rent scheme they implement, variations in schemes can occur. For example some authorities use banded income categories and rent fractions to calculate the differential rent on the principal earner's income while others use a system based on a set percentage, or simple fraction, applied to assessable income. Authorities could also differ in their approach to subsidiary earners, deductions for children, the application of maximum or minimum rents or the use of a hardship clause. Such local discretion and flexibility are inherent in the devolved system of administering rent schemes.

While the rent payable is related to the total income of the household, I can confirm that, as a consequence of specific Government decisions, any increase in income due to participation in the back-to-work allowance scheme or the community employment programme does not attract increased rent.