Rent arrears owed to East Lothian Council have fallen below £1million for the first time in 11 years, it has been revealed.
A report to the local authority's policy and performance review committee revealed that the amount owed by council tenants in June this year was £937,000. It is the first time unpaid rent fell below the £1million mark since October 2011.
A report to the committee said the reduction in arrears was all the more remarkable because of the impact of the pandemic and cost of living crisis.
It said: "For the first time in many years, rent arrears are below the £1m threshold, although it's hard to believe that this has been achieved during a period of recovery from a global pandemic and in the midst of the biggest cost of living crisis since the 1970s.
"This fantastic achievement is testament to the team's 'can do' attitude and adaptability when faced with these considerable challenges.
"There is potential for further significant pressures on council income streams in the coming weeks and months and work continues to promote the help available to support council tenants through these most challenging of times."
Work to reduce rent debt in East Lothian suffered a blow when the local authority became the first area in Scotland to pilot the roll out of Universal Credit in 2016 moving housing benefit from being paid directly to council landlords and instead as part of a single benefit payment to the tenants.
Long delays in switching tenants from the old system to the new one saw many forced into debt as they were left in some cases up to three months without any benefit payment at all.
A year after the introduction of Universal Credit rent arrears had risen by 30% from £1.296million and continued to rise to a peak in 2018 of £1.721million.
The results saw councillors in East Lothian urging the UK Government to learn from problems in the county as the roll-out pilot was branded "an experiment in cruelty" by one elected member.
The drop to under £1million was revealed as part of a report to the committee on the council's risk indicators and performance so far this year.
The report also revealed the average time for housing benefit claims to be processed has increased from 21 days to nearly 31 days over the same period.
The delay was put down to the additional pressures on the council's benefit team from grant applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund and Self Isolation Support Grants.
The report was noted by members.