TWO councils were owed almost £4 million in outstanding rent this year, according to figures.

Freedom of Information data obtained by the Leader shows the number of Wrexham and Flintshire council tenants in arrears with rent payments each year since 2014, as well as the value of that owed rent to the councils.

According to the figures, Flintshire Council had a total of 4,317 tenants in arrears this year, the value of their unpaid rent being £2,273,267.

The data shows that although the number of tenants in arrears has decreased since 2015/16, when there were 5,004, the value of owed rent has grown.

In 2015/16 the council was owed £1,418,307 and the figure has since increased each year.

This year Wrexham council had 5,456 tenants in rent arrears, the value of owed rent to the authority being £1,693,927.

In Wrexham the number of tenants in arrears has increased every year since 2014, when there were 4,725.

A spokesman for Wrexham Council said: "The department continue to support their tenants through the changes associated with welfare reforms and although operating a robust income collection procedure will assist in exploring all avenues to assist and support individuals to sustain their tenancies.

"The department cannot guarantee that arrears levels overall will not increase, but will continue to offer support, debt advice, guidance and assistance to their tenants in partnership with other agencies to prevent homelessness where possible.

"There is a range of support options available to tenants who may find themselves in difficulty with rent payments which include tenancy support officers, individual support, estate office support officers, pre-court advice, payment plans where appropriate, budgeting advice, housing options advice [and] referral to other support agencies."

When approached by the Leader about the figures, Flintshire Council referred to a report discussed by the authority's Community and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee in November.

The document provided members with an operational update on rent collection, arrear levels and the strategies being adopted to mitigate financial risks to the housing revenue account (HRA) as welfare reforms and Universal Credit are rolled out by the UK Government.

It stated: "Over recent years, rent arrears have fluctuated but through re-structuring and service re-alignment, the council’s rent income team was successful in starting to reduce rent arrears in 2016/17, despite the introduction of a series of welfare reforms starting with the spare room subsidy (otherwise known as a bedroom tax) and benefit cap."

Describing the authority's current position in 2018/19, it added: "Since Universal Credit (UC) full service rollout, accumulated rent arrears up to week 29 in 2018/19 have increased by £1 million as a comparison with the year-end position in 2016/17.

"A significant factor in the increase in rent arrears is attributable to the implementation of UC since 449 council tenants who are in receipt of UC have accumulated rent arrears of £661,000. "Although some tenants might have been in rent arrears prior to UC sign up, the five week minimum delay in processing UC is a major contributory factor to the efficient collection of rent.

"Collection of rent remains a key priority for the council, and running alongside the statutory duty to support tenants, is the need to strike the right balance between supporting tenants and targeting those tenants who fail to pay and do not engage with the council.

"During 2018/19, additional resources have been allocated from the Supporting People Grant to ensure that arrears are managed through intensive interventions at the earliest opportunity that prevent arrears building up but ensure that tenants with complex situations or those in financial difficulty receive the ‘fast tracked’ support they need to address their rent payments."