SNP manifesto backs annual target of 100,000 UK affordable homes
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon delivered her party’s election manifesto yesterday, promising to end austerity and deliver 100,000 affordable homes in the UK.
The first minister called for a review of benefit sanctions and revealed plans to protect housing benefit for young people.
Amongst the commitments, the SNP said it will increase the minimum wage to £8.70 by 2020 and “back plans for an annual UK target of 100,000 affordable homes, and use additional capital investment to deliver a further expansion of housebuilding in Scotland”.
Backing calls in the manifesto for a review of benefit sanctions, Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at homelessness charity Crisis, said: “We welcome measures outlined by the SNP today to ensure that the welfare safety net protects some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“In particular we support the SNP’s calls for an urgent review of benefit sanctions. Sanctions are cruel and can leave people cold, hungry and at severe risk of homelessness. Our next government must initiate a full independent review into the appropriateness and effectiveness of the regime, particularly for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
“It is also encouraging to see the SNP standing firmly against attempts to restrict housing benefit for 18 to 21 year olds. Almost one in three homeless people are aged between 16 and 24. Housing benefit can be a lifeline for young people who cannot rely on the support of their parents. Any plans to remove this safety net could have devastating consequences, leaving more vulnerable young people with no choice but to turn to the streets.
“Crisis’ research shows that, along with benefit cuts and the ongoing effects of the recession, a shortage of genuinely affordable homes is leaving far too many people facing homelessness. It is therefore heartening to see the SNP give political backing to plans to build more affordable homes – a critical ingredient in the effort to end the scandal of 21st century homelessness.”
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the SNP’s proposal for a new law to tackle fair payment could help construction SMEs.
Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, said: “The construction industry contributes more than £10 billion to Scotland’s economy and employs over 170,000 people, so the health of this industry is crucial to Scotland’s overall prosperity. 98 per cent of businesses in the Scottish construction sector are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and one of the greatest struggles these firms face is the unfair payment practices perpetuated by some clients and larger contractors. Placing prompt payment terms into law could help protect small businesses from predatory practices and also help encourage more of them to engage in public sector procurement.
“In terms of housing, most people know that we are not building anywhere near enough homes in Scotland and it’s good to see that the SNP manifesto recognises this. Their commitment to increasing capital investment in housing is welcome but if we are to achieve the level of house building required, barriers to SME house builders must be removed. If we carry on as we are, the under supply of new housing will pose a real threat to Scotland’s future social and economic well-being.”
Nelson added: “Finally, we welcome the SNP’s announcement of a more targeted approach to business taxation. However, we would like to have seen the SNP echo the commitment of the Green Party in pledging to cut VAT on housing renovation and repair to 5 per cent, a policy the SNP has previously shown support for. Research by Experian has demonstrated that a VAT cut from 20 per cent to 5 per cent could lead to 2,417 construction jobs in Scotland and an additional 2,000 jobs in the wider Scottish economy in 2015. This was a missed opportunity to back jobs and growth.”
John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, criticised the manifesto for failing to offer a coherent vision of the third sector’s role in society and ignoring volunteering.
He said: “The SNP’s manifesto seeks to bring progressive change across the UK, but it fails to offer a clear and coherent vision for the role of charities in society.
“The commitment to exempt charities from the Lobbying Act is welcome, and proposals to encourage the growth of social enterprise will also be warmly received.
“However it is disappointing that such little attention is given to the role of charities in delivering high-quality public services, and a failure to promote the importance of volunteering is also notable.
“We need to see parties finding common ground in their commitment to a strong civil society to ensure that charities are at the heart of any future government.”