Sunday, April 28, 2013

More local discontent on housing allocations expressed at Communtiy Councils meeting

The question of who is allocated council or other social housing in Nairn is, as in many other parts of the Highlands and Scotland, a very controversial topic. The meeting of the local community councils debated this subject last Wednesday night and we have already published an article here of how the Chair of the meeting Dick Youngson introduced the matter. We have also previously published articles detailing opinion expressed at other community council meetings that indicates that there is a widespread feeling that housing allocations are weighted against local people and a further feeling that politicians at all levels do little or nothing to change this situation. Anyway here’s details of how things went last Wednesday.

John Mackie was the first to respond to the Chair’s opening of the topic of housing allocations: “ I think we can control to a certain extent through planning, the type of property that is built. I don’t know that we can change the allocation. The housing authority and the agencies are all working together. I don’t know that we would have much of a voice in allocation. We could object to some but they would just ignore us.”

The Chair responded, “That’s absolutely true that’s what is happening at the moment.”

One of the Ardersier Councillors stated: “I think we should ensure that we have a voice.”

Dick: “Yes, that’s it, we want devolved input or management. I think we would have much more of a say with housing associations and where property is going to be located and the type of property because we don’t really have much of a say. All we can do is respond to a planning application.”

Highland Councillor Roddy Balfourt then intervened. He expressed his belief that housing  was now out of Highland  Council’s hands and he blamed a Scottish Government directive. He said that of 22 new houses built at Ardersier only 6 were allocated for local people.

Dick commented: “It’s sad, it’s a sad state of affairs that we have lost local control.”

“How can we change that?” Came a  voice from the floor.

“We can only change it at government level,” responded Dick

A few moments later a councillor from Ardersier asked: “have we any idea of where it is driven from?”

Roddy Balfour was quick to respond: “It’s come about I think, […] by a government who are determined to take every aspect of life into their own hands and mould it according to their own dogma. I’m sorry but that is how it comes across to me and to most other people.”

Simon Noble was quick to counter that assertion: “That’s desperately misleading, the reason that we have lost local control here is because the housing stock is managed by Highland Council which has got regional responsibilities and they apply policies which are governed by principles set down by the government. Those principles are about fairness and equality. There are a number of different reasons but you score points, or whatever it is, to be allocated and that’s why it doesn’t favour people from one locality or another. It simply fills those who achieve the score to get allocated the next property that is available. So that could be somebody from Inverness or from Tain or it could be somebody from Nairn.”
 Simon added that he was not defending Highland Council in response to another comment from the floor of the meeting. He thought that the only way to achieve some measure of control of property in Nairn would be “to build it ourselves”.

Alistair Noble then made a contribution to the debate: “Something that has worried me for a long while: If we are allocation points, as you say Simon, against these needs, by and large the sort of people we are getting are the sort of people should actually stay in their own localities and the worst thing to do Simon, is to transport them to some other locality. So from a very simple point of view it doesn’t make a lot of sense for them and it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the locality. The points system has always been to me fundamentally flawed. To start from what the individual needs he would want to house local people locally because that is where all their support networks are and where their friends are. It is also where they are best known and best understood. That might be difficult for them because it means they might have to change their behaviour and face up to their behaviour. To actually let them keep running away just recreates the problem somewhere else.
So I’ve been in this argument several times, it seems to me that each locality was responsible for housing its own local people and people wouldn’t be asked to move to other localities  and therefore we would be running a much better system. The trouble with all these kind of high level decisions about allocating points or that is you get into these nonsensical decisions where what you decide isn’t actually good for the individual but it is argued that it is fair.  I would like to think we could do much better.” Alistair then added that he thought more points should be added for locality.

Simon Noble raised fears that any changes in that direction might lead to inequality: “…regardless of how you divide it up when you have got a limited amount of stock. There are parts of Nairn which are in the top 10% of deprivation in the Highlands. […] What I’m saying is that it isn’t as simple as saying we should control our own housing, we actually need to target those areas of need that exist and that we know exist.”

Rosemary Young said that it was the same all over and added: “However, it will always be the same unless we start doing something about it. I think for a start we should start lobbying the government from all the councils and start writing, because as a matter of fact government today reacts strongly to what people say – they are so afraid of not being voted in. I think we should start on the bandwagon and I think everybody will join us. I’m not saying that we should have all control of the housing, obviously we are going to have some people who need it a lot but I think we should have some part of our housing for our local people who work here and who have been brought up and can’t get a house and I think we should start today.

Dick Youngson then asked the meeting: “Who supports then having a fair bit of local control over housing.”
The show of hands was unanimous.

There was some further discussion on this topic before the meeting moved on to debate other issues, more on the Gurn soon.


Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm naive but do our community councils actually DO anything apart from complain about things?

Anonymous said...

Social housing.... Makes me laugh...

Easy for anti social people to be hosued.

The hard working guy/girl who can't get a mortgage for one reason or another has to fork out extortionate amounts of money on private rentals.

Personally I'd like no "social housing" to be built ever again.

It would be interesting to know said...

According to Simon Noble "There are parts of Nairn which are in the top 10% of deprivation in the Highlands". Can he give any more details on this? What is meant by "deprivation" and where is it in Nairn?

Anonymous said...

We have no voice in terms of allocation, nor should we for obvious reasons !

NairnLandlord said...

More Anonymous ill advised comment about our Community Councils. These are UNPAID people who have the interests of Nairn at heart and want to "give something back to our lovely town". As for not doing anything just take a look at all the work recently carried out by the River Community Council initiatives clearing invasive foreign plants by the river and restoring to a lovely natural habitat.
As for extortionate private rents - I haven't seen any such thing in Nairn. Private rents are VERY affordable to both the employed and those on benefit. Landlords make hardly any profit on rents - believe me I know I am a landlord. Property maintenance and redecoration costs are VERY high these days so profit on rents is marginal and certainly not extortionate by any stretch of the imagination.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Community Councils are full of would be's and wanna be's who will in fact never be ! Just saying.

Graisg said...

I think you are being a little harsh there anon, there are some people on the CCs that put in just as much time working on the community's behalf as the paid Highland Councillors in my humble opinion.
Love them or loathe them you get Community Councillors for free.

growtosow said...

think you are being a little harsh there anon, there are some people on the CCs that put in just as much time working on the community's behalf as the paid Highland Councillors in my humble opinion.
Love them or loathe them you get Community Councillors for free. i would agree with GRAISG on that these folk do a lot of work on our behalf. perhaps the person who has posted the comment at4 21 pm should go along to one of the meetings and find out what they do.

Simon Noble said...

I just spotted a question put by one of the Gurn’s readers about what I said on deprivation in Nairn at the joint councils meeting. Sorry I didn’t pick it up straight away.

The quick answer is to recommend that the person goes onto the Highland Council website where they can access Scottish government figures, published annually. The significance of these figures is that they are collected by statisticians who have no reason to interpret the facts or to focus on one area rather than another. These figures record what’s called the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. Deprivation is measured in relation to income, employment, health, education, housing, geographical access to services and crime. Nairn doesn’t figure in the worst 10% for all of these factors, but thanks to notable problems like unemployment, it makes that grade overall. Published in December, these measures show that Nairn South and Moss-side are having a particularly bad time of it.

You don’t have to look at the statistics – there’s been plenty in the press over the last couple of years, for instance about the rise in demand for charity food parcels – but if you do look at the facts, it’s hard not to ask questions about priorities in ideas for the town.

Graisg said...

Thanks for that Simon and to "it would be intersting to know" for asking the question.
The question and the answer are now part of a new article posted on the Gurn.