Headlines: December 3rd, 2004

Local councils in Scotland are disappointed that their expertise in dealing with homelessness has been ignored by members of the Scottish Parliament. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said that delivery of the Executive’s homelessness agenda depended on a partnership with councils and the decision to press ahead with impossible timescales on ending the use of bed and breakfast accommodation.COSLA president, Councillor Pat Watters, said he stood by local government’s commitment to eliminating the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families. It was easy, he said, for people without the responsibility for delivering frontline services to snipe from the sidelines. He expressed extreme disappointment that COSLA’s advice and expertise on homelessness had been ignored, as it would have provided a practical solution for some of the most vulnerable people.

He criticised the Parliament’s Communities Committee for forcing through impossible timescales for the use of B&Bs. He said all local authorities had been looking to the committee for a three month extension on the implementation date by which time councils would fully meet the requirements of an order to end use of such accommodation. Councillor Waters said local authorities were committed to tackling homelessness head on and had had significant success in reducing the use of bed and breakfast. “The vast majority of our councils are meeting this challenge, we are talking about the exception rather than the rule,” he added.

The committee’s decision, he warned, placed an impossible burden on councils across Scotland, and would undermine the genuine efforts of local homelessness officers and divert their attention away from tackling real homeless needs.