Thatcher blamed for housing shortage

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The Right to Buy scheme has been blamed for long-running problems with East Renfrewshire’s council housing stock.

Launched under Margaret Thatcher in 1980, the scheme allowed secure tenants in council properties to buy their house at a large discount.

It was scrapped in Scotland in August 2016 but council chiefs say its “implications have been a disaster”.

The comments came as East Renfrewshire Council’s Cabinet approved an updated housing asset management plan, which highlighted the need for millions of pounds of investment in council stock.

Councillor Alan Lafferty said the new plan was “generally positive”, adding he was very pleased to see Right to Buy was gone.

The council has started work on a project to build 240 new council houses.

Council leader Tony Buchanan said: “I think we are all aware of the historical issues around council stock.

“But now we’re in a position where we are building council houses and increasing our stock. That’s a fantastic position for us to be in.”

Director of environment Andrew Cahill said the “issue is a historical one and it is to do with Right to Buy”, adding that the “implications have been a disaster”.

He said other councils had faced the same problem.

The report by Mr Cahillrevealed the Council sold around 2,850 properties under Right to Buy, equating to 50 per cent of council stock.

It said: “As a result there are high levels of mixed tenure blocks presenting property management challenges in terms of common repairs and improvements.

“The building of new homes by the Council, which came to a halt in 1992, was restarted in 2015.

“The delivery of new affordable housing is continuing, with the council currently committed to completing 240 dwellings over five years from 2018.

“There’s also a commitment to continue to seek innovative ways to deliver further affordable housing for rent and for sale.”

Council housing levels dropped from 2,973 units in March 2015 to 2,939 units in March 2018 due to Right to Buy sales and a small number of demolitions.

Mr Cahill stated: “The abolition of Right to Buy, combined with the commitment to building 240 new council houses, is a step towards initially stabilising and subsequently achieving our aspiration to gradually increase council stock levels.”

The report also raises issues over road repairs, caused by the Right to Buy scheme.

When council houses were sold through Right to Buy, responsibility for adjacent land, including footpaths and some roads, held on the council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA), was not transferred.

The report states that this means HRA, and therefore tenants’ rents, now solely funds any necessary repairs, maintenance or improvement works on the land. It adds that this requires to be addressed.

A mixed tenure scheme, launched in 2013, has improved the appearance of some properties, with painting, joinery work, fencing and window glazing carried out.

It also included regular close cleaning, rubbish and fly-tipping removal and gutter cleaning.