Housing Support Grant (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:26 pm on 22nd January 1992.

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Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East 11:26 pm, 22nd January 1992

As an hon. Member for Edinburgh, the Minister should be well aware of the housing crisis in Edinburgh. The scale of homelessness in Scotland is a national scandal, and nowhere is it worse than in the capital city itself. Time and again I have experience in my surgery of people with the most desperate housing circumstances, people who, 15 years ago, I know, would have been offered council housing without difficulty but who now find it impossible to get a house.

The underlying reasons for that are the failure of public investment in housing stock, the failure of the Government to provide adequate support for housing in Edinburgh and the selling-off of council houses without them being replaced by other public sector houses.

In 1979–80 Edinburgh received over £11 million in housing support grant. That was phased out within a few years, and for a considerable number of years we have had no housing support grant—I will come to the hostel support grant, to which the Minister referred, in a minute. That £11 million in 1979–80 would have bought a lot more housing and paid for a lot more building work than one could ever get today for that money. I asked the Minister how much that was in 1991–92 prices, and it is £26 million. That is a measure of the shortfall: £26 million at current prices that we were receiving in 1979–80 in housing support grant. When this is multiplied over, say, a 10-year period, it comes to £260 million. That is an indication of the lack of support for public sector housing in Edinburgh.

The Minister spoke about the hostel support grant which he now provides to Edinburgh. It is quite inadequate. The Minister may refer to the high revenue costs of the proposed third hostel in Randolph crescent. That hostel will be in addition to the hostels at Leith and Greyfriars. The hostel support grant that the Minister plans to provide in the next financial year will hardly be enough to pay the revenue costs of the two existing hostels. I appeal to the Minister to face up to that and at the minimum to give sympathetic consideration to the representations that he has already received from Edinburgh district council about an increase in that small housing support grant for hostels.

With regard to the housing revenue capital allocation, we in Edinburgh have a real grievance in respect of the provisional gross allocation for 1992–93. Edinburgh does not believe that it has any chance of achieving the targets for receipts. In recent years Edinburgh has broadly hit its targets, but it believes that it has no chance of achieving the Government's targets in 1992–93. By any test the gross provisional allocation represents a cut. In real terms, housing revenue block provisional allocation will represent a cut.