SNP housing minister rejects claims of hoarding Covid cash

Scottish Government accused of ‘sitting on’ £1.2bn of pandemic funds

The SNP housing minister has denied that the Scottish Government is ‘sitting on’ £1.2bn of Covid cash that could be used to tackle the housing crisis. Paul McLennan said the money was already allocated to various sectors and could not be redirected to boost the affordable homes budget, which was cut by 26% in the latest draft budget.

McLennan was responding to a question from Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill, who challenged him to explain why the Government was holding back the funds while thousands of people were homeless or living in unsuitable accommodation. McNeill cited a report by Audit Scotland, which found that the Scottish Government had spent £11.8bn of the £14.4bn it received from the UK Government through the Barnett formula to tackle the pandemic in the last two financial years.

McLennan said the Audit Scotland report was ‘misleading’ and that the £1.2bn was not unspent, but committed to various areas such as health, education, transport and local government. He said the Government had to plan ahead and ensure there was enough money to deal with the ongoing impact of Covid-19. He also accused McNeill of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘playing politics’ with the housing issue.

Housing crisis worsens amid budget cuts and council tax freeze

The exchange came amid growing concerns over the state of housing in Scotland, which has been worsened by the pandemic. The Scottish Housing Regulator recently identified a ‘systemic failure’ in council services for the homeless in some areas and an ‘immediate risk’ in others. It said 14 of Scotland’s 32 councils had admitted they did not always fully comply with their statutory duties to the homeless, including providing suitable temporary accommodation.

SNP housing minister rejects claims of hoarding Covid cash

The Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2023-24, which was passed by SNP and Green MSPs last week, slashed the affordable homes budget by £268m, or 26%, compared to the previous year. The budget also included a council tax freeze, which was announced by First Minister Humza Yousaf as a measure to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis. However, the freeze has been criticised by local authorities, who say they are not getting enough funding from the Government to cover the policy and deliver essential services.

The Scottish Government has defended its budget, saying it would protect frontline services and support the recovery from the pandemic. It has also claimed that its income tax system, which has higher rates for higher earners than the rest of the UK, would raise an extra £1.5bn to fund public spending. It has also pledged to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, despite the budget cut.

Opposition parties call for urgent action to address housing emergency

The opposition parties have condemned the Scottish Government’s handling of the housing situation and called for urgent action to address the housing emergency. Scottish Labour said the Government was ‘gaslighting’ the public by promising more affordable homes while cutting the budget. It also said the council tax freeze was a ‘bribe’ that would harm local services and worsen inequality.

The Scottish Conservatives said the Government was ‘hoarding’ Covid cash that could be used to boost the housing budget and help the homeless. It also said the Government was ‘failing’ to deliver on its previous housing targets and accused it of ‘betraying’ the people of Scotland.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said the Government was ‘ignoring’ the housing crisis and ‘letting down’ the most vulnerable people in society. It also said the Government was ‘wasting’ money on its independence agenda and ‘dodging’ its responsibilities on housing.

By Axel Piper

Axel Piper is a renowned news writer based in Scotland, known for his insightful coverage of all the trending news stories. With his finger on the pulse of Scotland's ever-changing landscape, Axel brings the latest updates and breaking news to readers across the nation. His extensive knowledge of current affairs, combined with his impeccable research skills, allows him to provide accurate and comprehensive reporting on a wide range of topics. From politics to entertainment, sports to technology, Axel's articles are engaging and informative, keeping readers informed and up to date.

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