Housing and Communities
- Moray Council needs to improve its service as a landlord.
- Priority needs to be given to social, rather than affordable housing.
- We need to revitalise towns by making town centres an attractive place to live.
- New house building must not be allowed to overwhelm local services – particularly healthcare and education.
- Bringing all tenant satisfaction metrics up to the national average within the next five years.
- A target of 1,200 houses for social rent in the next five years.
- Bringing Moray’s seagull menace under control.
It is hard to overstate the crisis which rising energy bills are about to unleash on our communities. Labour is proposing national action which would help ordinary people deal with this enormous and unequal rise in the cost of living, which will push millions more working people into poverty. At a local level, Moray Labour will do everything in our power to ensure local housing is warm, green and cheap to heat. This will include adopting the highest energy efficiency standards for new homes, improving the energy efficiency of council houses, and seeking to secure more resources for local energy saving advice projects like the one currently run by REAP Scotland. On this issue, Labour councillors will be campaigning councillors and will demand support for Moray communities from both the UK and Scottish Governments.
Moray currently has 6,250 council houses, of which 3,171 are for general usage. While the Moray Council recently received an improved report card from the Scottish Housing Regulator, it is clear that the Council could be a better landlord. Labour will set a target of bringing all tenant satisfaction metrics up to the national average within the next five years.
The private rented sector provides an increasing share of Moray’s rented housing needs. Housing in the private rented sector is too often insecure or unaffordable. A healthy supply of socially rented housing does more than provide affordable housing for social rent tenants: it helps control private rents by providing healthy competition. Labour councillors will seek to expand the supply of social rented housing by 1,200 units over the next five years.
Tenants are too easily excluded from decisions taken about where they live. Tenants’ associations for the private rented sector and renters’ unions, such as Living Rent, give private tenants a voice and the chance to organise for better conditions. We will invite renters’ unions to take part in Council consultations and work to build a constructive partnership with those organising private renters.
We will continue to promote Private Landlord Registration in Moray. The scheme gives the Council power to regulate who can operate as a legitimate landlord and we will use that power to enforce standards.
We support new legislative powers for councils to regulate private rented housing and we are prepared to cap excessive rents in the private sector.
We will consider the feasibility of a social letting agency: a socially-driven, non-profit alternative to high street letting agencies. The agency would identify landlords who are prepared to let below market rents to help meet local housing need, and it would refer tenants to landlords accordingly.
Moray’s towns are increasingly ‘doughnutting’ – towns are sprawling outwards while the centres are being hollowed out. Labour Councillors will support initiatives that make town-centre living attractive, which in turn will help to revive our high streets. This will include measures to bring vacant town centre flats back into use, improve public transport connections, and develop on-street car hire schemes.
Moray Council is legally obliged to approve the building of 2,070 new homes over the next 5 years. Local people are understandably concerned about how local services (like schools, GPs, dentists, and Dr Gray’s) will cope with additional people when they are already under such pressure. The Scottish Government’s answer is that councils should approve ‘infrastructure first’ – but in Moray the problem is often not bricks-and-mortar infrastructure, it is lack of staff. For example, we have a GP surgery that is closed for lack of GPs, and a maternity ward that’s virtually empty for lack of obstetric consultants. Moray Labour Councillors will propose that the Council adopts a common-sense definition of ‘infrastructure’ when making planning decisions, considering not just whether hospitals, schools, etc, exist, but also whether those facilities can be adequately staffed. Where lack of fully staffed infrastructure is an issue, we will seek to secure developer contributions and Scottish Government commitments to ensure that public services can keep up with increased demand from our growing population.
Where planning permission is approved, Labour Councillors will require the Council to publish the associated planning conditions on the Council’s planning portal. This will improve transparency and democracy in the planning process.
Gulls are a major issue for Moray communities on and near the coast. Through no fault of their own, some gull species have been pushed into built up areas and further inland, where they inevitably come into conflict with humans. While some of these nuisances are part-and-parcel of living near the coast, others have serious consequences – like school children being unable to eat their piece in the playground, and residents requiring stitches after being mobbed by a gull. Moray Labour therefore helped secure licensed trials to control numbers of roof-nesting gulls in Elgin. However, more needs to be done, and there is a risk that piecemeal nest control simply moves gulls from one residential area to another. Moray Labour proposes that the council works with NatureScot to develop a Moray-wide Seabird Plan. As well as seeking to control nesting in urban areas (through targeted nest control, public education, and installation of seagull-proof bins), our proposed strategy will seek to enhance natural nesting sites so that gulls have alternative breeding spaces rather than residential rooftops. One very simple way of discouraging gulls from urban areas is to stop feeding them. Moray Labour Councillors will propose a public education campaign to end littering, reduce food waste and stop residents deliberately feeding the gulls. As a last resort, we will ask Council Officers to look at legal enforcement to prevent feeding of gulls in urban areas.