Abolition of Council Housing to Save [Pounds Sterling]3bn; LABOUR ACCUSED OF HYPOCRISY AS IT ORDERS A CLEARANCE SALE

Daily Mail (London), December 15, 1998 | Go to article overview

Abolition of Council Housing to Save [Pounds Sterling]3bn; LABOUR ACCUSED OF HYPOCRISY AS IT ORDERS A CLEARANCE SALE


Byline: HAMISH MACDONELL

COUNCIL housing in Scotland is to be phased out but the cost to the taxpayer could be as high as [pounds sterling]3billion, it emerged yesterday.

The Government announced it would help local authorities clear their massive housing debts but in return they must sell off their stock of council homes to public or private bodies.

This means that council housing, a mainstay of every town and city in Scotland for 50 years, will soon be a thing of the past.

Housing Minister Calum MacDon-ald said the plan would transform the housing landscape and would give people a real chance to have a say over their own homes.

The Tories demanded to know exactly how much the taxpayer would have to pay for the Government's decision and said questions would be asked in the Commons until they got satisfactory answers.

The Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalists, however, accused the Government of bullying and bribing councils into selling their houses, claiming they were being forced simply to clear their debts.

Local authorities will play a part in all new social housing developments but they will be run by trusts which will include private developers, local residents and councillors.

The Government is taking on a huge debt burden to put Scotland's stock of social housing into new hands. Councils have run up almost [pounds sterling]4billion in council house debts -[pounds sterling]900million in Glasgow alone.

Glasgow's housing stock is valued at [pounds sterling]13million, leaving the Government to write off [pounds sterling]887million.

Other local authorities with huge debts include Edinburgh with [pounds sterling]283million, Highland with [pounds sterling]222mil-lion, North Lanarkshire with [pounds sterling]231million and South Lanarkshire with [pounds sterling]230million.

Some of this will be offset by the sale of houses to the new housing trusts but much of it will be left for the Government to pick up.

A Scottish Office spokesman admitted that the overall debt burden would be sizeable but stressed that the Government had not set a deadline for the transfer, and it could take many years.

The spokesman insisted that it was impossible to work out exactly how much the Government's liability would be until the councils had come up with ideas on how to transfer their housing stock to new partnerships. …

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