Accessing affordable rented housing: who gets the let?

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on several housing allocation policies. One of the proposals is to create more flexibility for social landlords to decide who should get priority for their housing, for example local letting policies to meet local need. Do you think social landlords should have the flexibility to decide who gets priority for their housing? Please respond to the survey on the right of this page. Please contact me if you want to add further comments.

Aberdeenshire Council Liberal Democrats Manifesto 2012-2017. Local, Listening, Delivering

The Liberal Democrat Group on Aberdeenshire Council has launched their manifesto for the council election on May 3, detailing their proposals and commitments across the whole range of council services.

Entitled ‘Local, Listening, Delivering’, the manifesto builds on the achievements of the Liberal Democrat-led Administration, stressing the need for local decision-making in the delivery of services to residents and communities.

Aberdeenshire Council has been led by Liberal Democrats since its inception in 1995 and is independently recognised as an effective, efficient and responsible council, despite the significant reduction in grants over the past few years.

The council is delivering savings of some £54m from its budget. In addition it has set a course for meeting the further significant savings required over the next few years.

Council Leader Anne Robertson said, “In 2007 we made clear commitments to the people of Aberdeenshire. I am proud that we have delivered the overwhelming majority of them, despite the most difficult financial situation ever to face Aberdeenshire Council.

“Our record shows clearly that we keep the commitments we make. We have delivered effective and efficient services, always based on our core principles of fairness, equality and responsiveness. We have delivered services according to need and not for political advantage.

“Our careful management of the council’s resources and budgets has meant that we are able to invest for the future, by building new schools for example or putting extra money into our roads and economic development. We will continue to invest to strengthen the Aberdeenshire economy.

“Our priority is and will remain, Aberdeenshire. We are driven by common-sense, local decision-making rather than by political dogma. We listen to our residents and take their views very seriously”

For the manifesto in full, please click below:

http://iriswalker.mycouncillor.org.uk/?page_id=428&preview=true

Contact for further information

For further information contact Cllr Anne Robertson (07824461997), Cllr Karen Clark (01330824980) or Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes (07909897571)

A printed copy of the manifesto can be obtained by sending an email to

aberdeenshire.manifesto@hotmail.co.uk

Vandalism and safety issues in Sauchen

It was a pleasure visiting Sauchen last weekend and meeting residents there. We got a very warm welcome and spoke to many residents about local issues. It was disheartening to note that both the village notice board and the fencing around the recycling centre had been vandalised. I spoke to Aberdeenshire Council who reassured me that these have now been noted and repairs will be made as soon as possible.

The village of Sauchen has expanded somewhat over the last few years. I spoke to residents from one of the newer developments from 2006 in Margaret Allan Grove who expressed concerns that the 30 mile speed limit has yet to be extended to include their residential area from its original location on what used to be the edge of the village. The street lights have yet to be extended also.  I have written to Aberdeenshire Council on both these issues and await their response.

Speaking up for Housing in Aberdeenshire

I’ve just come back from a very busy weekend at the Scottish Liberal Democrats Spring Conference held this year in Inverness. Apart from listening to key speeches from government ministers, attending fringes and training sessions, a favourite part of the Conference is in the main hall when party members debate their policy ideas and if voted for by the membership it then becomes party policy. The Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey local party called on the Scottish Government to reverse the 30% cut it recently made to its housing budget and to give proper priority to the construction jobs and affordable homes that are so badly needed to tackle Scotland’s huge social housing and employment problems and reinvigorate our urban and rural communities. On behalf of the Aberdeenshire West local party, I called for the word “affordable” to be amended to “social housing for rent” as explained in the text of my speech below.

“Aberdeenshire West local party welcomes this motion on the housing crisis and congratulates Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey local party for bringing this debate to conference.

They have raised all the points that we must shout about; from the numbers languishing on waiting lists to the Scottish Government’s refusal to invest in jobs and in the people of Scotland.

As you will see from the conference papers, we are seeking to change  the word “affordable” in line 20 to “social housing for rent”, and I will explain why:

The SNP in their 2011 manifesto promised to build 6000 new “homes for social rent” each year for the next 5 years. Only 4 short months after the Scottish Elections the wording of their housing manifesto had sneakily been changed from “homes for social rent” to “affordable homes”.

In the housing world, the term “affordable” includes schemes such as shared equity, shared ownership and low cost ownership – schemes which require an element of purchase by the applicant. Whilst these schemes are laudible, we have two main concerns –

Most people on waiting lists do not have access to a mortgage. In the present economic climate, social rented housing is not just sought after by the homeless or unemployed; it is needed for our young people looking for a fair start; for our older people perhaps looking to downsize; it is needed for our hard working families and our hard working single people.

If I could steal a quote from Gallen Milne from a different debate yesterday “If you’re a local loon working for a low wage for a farmer in oil-rich Aberdeenshire, what are your housing options?”. They are very few.

Our second concern is that these affordable schemes such as shared equity and shared ownership require very little government investment, leaving local authorities and housing associations to find funding to build these homes.

So, it is very important that we change the word “affordable” to “social housing for rent” so that we don’t let the Scottish Government shirk their responsibility on housing.

We all know the Conservatives would like to see social housing dead and buried; it looks as if the SNP do too. I know that the Scottish Liberal Democrats are the party who will stand up for social rented housing and make sure that it isn’t a 2nd class option but a real opportunity for hard-working people to get on with their lives.

I urge you to support this amendment”.

Speakers came forward on both the motion and the amendment. After a rousing endorsement for the amendment by fellow Scottish Liberal Democrat, Peter Bellarby, councillor for Stonehaven and Lower Deeside and a summation by Kristian Chapman, the amendment was carried unanimously.

Are you registered to vote?

With just over 10 weeks until the local elections on May 3rd, make sure you are on the voters’ register so you can cast your vote. Although most people update their details between August and November each year when what is known as the “annual canvass” is delivered to their home address, if you are not registered or have moved home, please click on the link below to register:

http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/faq/registering_to_vote.aspx

To make things even easier, why not apply for a postal vote? Unexpected things happen and it may be that you cannot attend the polling station on the day of the elections. The deadline for applying for a new postal vote is 5pm on Wednesday 18th April 2012. For more details and to apply for a postal vote, go to:

http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/default.aspx?page=29&terms=postal%20vote

Residents concerned about dog waste

Many residents have voiced their concerns about dog waste on our pavements and paths. Although Aberdeenshire Council provide as many dog bins as possible, some dog-owners choose not to use them. Dog-owners who don’t clean up after their pets can be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice and will incur a fine of £40. If you can provide details of offenders in your area or would like more information, please contact the dog warden on 01569 768224.

Local issues………………in Budapest!

I’ve just returned home from a fascinating few days in Budapest. I cannot believe I travelled some 1115 miles leaving the mild weather of Elrick to freezing temperatures and snow in Hungary! It’s a beautiful city though and definitely on my “must do again” list. Travelling there is seamless and as in other European countries, they seem to have their public transport system, whether it be bus, tram or train, working. Despite the heavy snowfall, pavements are kept clear and shop-keepers take personal responsibility for keeping the front of their premises clean and safe. The streets are generally litter-free.

I also did some digging on social housing in Budapest and spoke to  ex-pats about their views on the housing situation there. I want to write about that separately and do some comparing though as localism came up in our conversation and that is something being looked at in the Scottish Government’s current housing consultation.

My last day there was rounded off nicely when leaving Vaci Utca to return to base  I chanced upon a student protest. Not being able to read Hungarian, a very kind camera-man offered me a cup of tea and an explanation. The students were protesting against what they see as the destruction of publicly funded higher education. Recent government measures dramatically cut state-funded college enrolment and imposed further restrictions on University students such as the obligation to stay and work in Hungary after graduation. I was beginning to feel more at home and although there are vast cultural differences between our two countries, everyday grievances tend to be very similar.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – I knew I had a good few thousand campaign leaflets waiting to be delivered,  so it was back down to earth with a resounding thud today! The amount of walking and exploring done in Budapest over the last few days has proved excellent training and inspiration though and it’s now onwards and upwards in my own local area!