Last week the Scottish government slashed budgets for affordable homes there by more than 75%. It announced plans to allocate almost £20m for affordable homes to Highland Council over the next three years, or less than £7m a year. This compares to £129m invested by Highland Council over the past four years, at an average annual budget of £32m.
The Scottish Building Federation fears for the health of the local construction industry in the face of such public spending cuts. Local SBF representatives will raise the issue when they meet infrastructure cabinet secretary Alex Neil, enterprise minister and local MSP Fergus Ewing, and local government and planning minister Derek Mackay at a special cnstruction summit taking place in Inverness today (12 May 2012).
SBF chief executive Michael Levack said: “The Highland construction sector continues to face extremely tough trading conditions. Last week, we saw the latest local casualty as UBC Group went into administration. Annual rates of private sector housebuilding in the Highlands have more than halved in the past five years. The public investment we’ve seen in affordable housing in recent years has helped to sustain many local construction firms through this difficult period.
“Of course we understand that budgets are tight and we welcome the efforts the Scottish government has already made to commit additional funds for affordable housing. But the reality is that we still face steep cuts to the amount of money available. Meanwhile, more than 11,000 names remain on housing waiting lists in the Highland Council area.”
He concluded: “The number of building firms going bust continues to rise and the industry remains braced for further job losses in the course of 2012. In that climate, we need reassurance that the Scottish government is doing absolutely everything it possibly can to prioritise investment in the new housing our communities, our industry and the wider Highland economy desperately need.”