There are signs that a number of Scottish local authorities are looking to improve and revamp their housing stock. Reports suggest councils have recently visited numerous council properties across Scotland to clarify who lives there, whether they have house insurance, the state of the property and other details. This initially prompted a degree of concern and uncertainty amongst council tenants and it is fair to say these fears have not been totally allayed. Why have the councils decided to do this now? What is their agenda? What is the long-term goal?
Council housing stock
It is not just Scotland where council housing stock is at dangerously low levels compared to demand. This is a problem which is causing issues right across the United Kingdom. Until recently it was possible to acquire your council property under the “right to buy” scheme although the vast majority of these have now been closed. On the flip side it is worth noting that numerous local councils across Scotland have significant landbanks – which they can build on, but so far there has been limited development.
Improving living standards
The recent move by local councils in Scotland has seen gardens checked, bins monitored and blanket warnings issued to tenants in individual courts where rubbish has been left. This has caused some unrest because it seems to be a limited few who are not abiding by the bin and garden regulations on their tenancy. The idea that an entire court could be effectively smeared as a consequence of actions taken by a limited few seems unfair. Or is this the cheapest and most effective way to do it?
Thankfully, the vast majority of so-called “sink estates” are now a thing of the past. It is fair to say there have been some major improvements in council housing but more work is needed. Nobody who was abiding by their tenancy would disagree to an annual inspection but a reduction in services, such as refuse collection, that is very different.
Increased rents on the way?
If a council was looking to significantly improve the living standards in a particular area you’d expect the authorities to want a degree of payback going forward? Whether this would be an increase in rent, or increase in council tax, very few councils invest money for the sake of it. However, there is one drawback.
The threat to remove individual housing bins from whole courts of council property, as a consequence of actions taken by a minority, seems unfair. Maybe this is a means of reducing the funds required to operate local services such as refuse collection? Communal bins, which are being suggested in some areas, would require one pickup from the refuse wagon rather than collecting individual bins.
We know that various housing associations across the UK receive significant funding from central government and local authorities. Could it be that councils in Scotland are looking to “spruce up their housing estates” before transferring them to more commercially operated housing associations? This would obviously be a significant change from historic management styles but many councils claim that austerity is still biting and they need more money or reduced expenditure.
It is extremely positive to see councils in Scotland regularly checking on council properties to see who lives there, whether they are abiding by their tenancy agreement and maintaining both the property and garden area. The idea of taking away individual property bins in favour of communal bins smells of cost-cutting. The fact that some council housing developments in Scotland have received warning letters from the local authorities suggests that something is afoot. They know who the culprits are, the minority ignoring refuse collection guidelines for one, but they don’t seem willing to do anything about it. That prompts the question, why?