Scottish Labour vows to end the housing crisis in manifesto
Scottish Labour has launched its manifesto for the Holyrood election, pledging to end the housing crisis by helping first-time buyers to save for a deposit, tackling rip-off rent rises and building 60,000 affordable homes.
Leader Kezia Dugdale said three quarters of the 60,000 affordable homes will be available for rent by councils, housing associations and co-operatives. The homes will be built to the highest standards of thermal insulation and at least 10 per cent will be built to wheelchair accessibility standards. The party said it will make more land available in the coming years to build homes, especially the consistently large areas of economically inactive land which blight communities.
Labour vowed to regulate private rents — capping rent increases, so “rogue landlords can’t get away with charging rip-off rents”. It will consult on introducing a Charter — similar to that in the social rented sector — to drive up standards in the private rented sector.
The manifesto pledged to introduce a Warm Homes Act to bring clean and affordable warmth to thousands of households and businesses in Scotland, supporting the growth of district heating, renewable heating and investment in energy efficiency. Labour will use the Scottish Parliament’s new powers to support pensioners using off-grid energy by bringing forward their Winter Fuel Payment. It will also consult on and adopt a new cross-departmental strategy for tackling homelessness.
The manifesto also includes plans to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’ and make the transition to Universal Credit as easy as possible by ensuring that, where a tenant requests it, the housing element can be paid direct to social landlords, and that, for those that require it, the option is available to have Universal Credit paid fortnightly instead of monthly. Labour will protect housing benefit for young people aged 18-21 if their entitlement is removed by the Tories.
Health, education, policing and culture budgets will see real-terms protection, appointments at a GP surgery will be guaranteed within 48 hours, Labour pledged.
The party intends to introduce a 1p increase in income tax rates in an effort to avoid cuts to education and other local services, while a 50p top rate of tax for earnings over £150,000 a year is being backed as well.
Ms Dugdale said: “This is the most positive manifesto Labour have ever published for a Scottish Parliament election.
“We present this alternative programme for government, our prospectus for change, to the Scottish people with a simple message: if you want to use the powers to make the changes we offer, then you have to vote for it.
“As many as one in four voters at this election are undecided. I want to speak today directly to them as they make up their mind on how to use both their votes.
“If you are still unsure how to vote, here’s our plan: we’ll tax the richest 1 per cent so we can invest in our schools and stop the cuts to our NHS and public services. If you want that, you have to vote for it.”
Commenting on the manifesto, director of WWF Scotland, Lang Banks, said: “With more than half of Scotland’s climate change emissions coming from heating, we’ve consistently called for new policies in this important area. It’s therefore very welcome to see this as a strong focus in the Scottish Labour Party manifesto. With a clear commitment to support a Warm Homes Act, the manifesto reflects the valuable role district heating offers in creating jobs, tackling fuel poverty and cutting emissions.
“When signing the Climate Leaders’ Agreement last year all of Scotland’s political parties supported the idea of making energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority. While it’s good to see Labour’s manifesto commit to pursue a major drive for energy efficiency, it’s a pity they didn’t take the opportunity to set out a clear target and budget.
“No matter the outcome of the election, we look forward to seeing politicians work together across the Parliament to develop a comprehensive action plan for delivering Scotland’s climate change commitments.”