Commenting on the Accounts Commission reportpublished today Mr Gray said that it was in councils' own interests to pursue all outstanding debt. We do regard non-payment of rent as a very serious matter,' he said, 'and the vast majority have improved their collection rate and very few have got worse.
Mr Gray added: 'However we must be aware that arrears can be a complicated area, for example, the introduction of tax credits has complicated matters for some tenants.
'The working family tax credit has taken some tenants over the benefit threshold. For some this means having to pay rent for the first time. Councils are suffering from this delay in payment created by years of benefit dependency.'
Mr Gray concluded: 'In relation to the re-letting of empty houses, local authorities up and down Scotland are putting in place measures such as web-based lettings initiatives and 'movers packs' to speed up the process and considerable progress is being made.
'These are being implemented alongside demolition and refurbishment programmes and like any business investment in assets, in this case houses, will generate returns, however these things take time.'
The Accounts Commission report also contained information about councils' social work services and Cosla warmly welcomes the fact that there are a number of areas where real improvements continue to be made by councils in this area.