A question over concerns that Pembrokeshire County Council has “serious rental areas of more than £2m” saw members of the council hear that one person had a backlog of more than £18,000.

Merlin’s Bridge councillor John Cole, in a submitted question heard at the May 9 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, asked: “In the budget seminars. It was reported that the council has serious rental arrears that are over £2 million.”

In a three-pronged question to Cabinet Member for Housing Operations & Regulatory Services Cllr Michelle Bateman, he asked:

“What amount of arrears are attributed to housing benefit not being passed on to the council by tenants?

“What is the highest, lowest and average amount of arrears owed and number of tenants in arrears?

“Would it not be prudent to have a clause in tenancy agreements that tenants agree that housing benefit rents are made directly to the council, thereby negating the arrears occurring in the first instance.”

Responding at the May meeting, Cllr Bateman said tenants did not receive housing benefit directly, unless transferred to universal credit, adding that, as of March 31, there were 2,618 tenants in arrears, the lowest owing one pence, the average £959.10, and the highest £18,058.16.

She told members the highest, which had skewed the average figures, was “a complex case involving a vulnerable individual”.

Members heard that 60 per cent of the rental arrears figures were under £500 owing.