When I was growing up where people lived didn't concern me much, if at all. Truthfully I couldn't tell you if, from those childhood friends I had outside the block of privately rented flat in which I grew up, lived in council houses or not. The fact they had a home and family was possibly what registered in my childish mind.
I can recall when I learned about council houses. For years, when I walked to my granny's house, I passed a really posh lamp on the pavement. It was an electric lamp by then but had originally been a gas lamp. Highly ornate and painted within an inch of its life with black gloss and gold paint, the Provost of Dundee's lamp stood outside his house. When I asked my Dad about it he explained the lamp was a public acknowledgment of the Provost's abode, outside which it stood in state. I found out in later years that the lamp stood outside a council house, and some Provosts in Dundee in my lifetime weren't far short of a bob or two.
Unfortunately I can't find a photograph of the Dundee Provost's lamp but the one shown above is that from Bridge of Allan which has close associations with Robert Louis Stevenson.
I'm drifting from the point of this post.
David Cameron has announced plans to end lifetime council tenancies. I'm sure this applies only to England but shouldn't the Scottish government have such a policy Is it right that people, like the old Lord Provosts, who were perhaps in those days voluntary politicians but didn't really spent a penny out of their own pocket on creating better communities.
It's not often I agree with Tory policies but I certainly never agreed with Maggie Thatcher's idea of selling off council house stock. She was thinking of quick money and not the future of those less able to buy their own homes. Over the years I've seen so many people make profits of thousands of pounds by selling a council house rented by a deceased family member just because they were named on the rent book.
Why should those, who do require council (social as it's called these days) housing be able to pass on their rented property to any of their extended family? It's difficult enough these days to protect my own home when I've owned homes for 30 odd years. Yes. you may think that's not a long time, but I can tell you, as s single woman with a child back in the early 80s, it was hell on earth to find a building society or bank to take me on. They all wanted a 'man's' signature regardless of my respectable proof of income.
I persevered and eventually I persuaded a bank, with which I had had a considerable balance for some years, to take me on. I never let them down.
But is it right for council tenants to have a lifetime guarantee of ownership, and for their extended family to inherit the property when they die?
No. Social (or council housing as it was know until Labor introduced the 'social housing' label) is for those who are in need. In recent years those who are in need have been denied a home because there are none available.
Have a look at the qualifications for council housing today. It astonished me. Now I know how an elderly friend feels. She applied for a sheltered house and said she was happy to pay the full rent, knowing she had a small income from the sale of her property. She was told she was at the bottom of the list as so many others came before her. Why she asked. 'Because you've been a home owner' was the response.
Here are the qualifications for a council house in Scotland.
If you have special needs, the council's social work department may be able to help you access accommodation that's suitable for you. This may be the case if you:
- are elderly or infirm
- have mental health issues
- have a disability
- have learning difficulties
- are a young person who needs support living independently
- are a refugee or asylum seeker
- are an ex-offender
- have an alcohol or drug related problem
Is it any wonder why some of us older Scots don't disagree with the Westminster government's decision to stop certain aspects of council housing tenancies which are passed on to other family members?
I agree with Osborne's plan. Build and let homes to those who are in need but let's stop the culture of allowing their benefactors from making money from the properties. It's not right. Our political masters have persuaded is that home ownership is the way forward. To allow those whose families have rented taxpayer subsidised property to have first call on their sale is unfair.
Thankfully the Scottish government has halted the sale of council houses. I just hope that England follows suit for the sake of younger generations.
Later I will discuss the many housing associations which have sprung up out of the blue to make offers to those who wish council housing. It's another subject altogether.