Fife Council declares housing emergency – the fourth in Scotland to do so

Fife Council has officially declared a housing emergency - the fourth local authority in Scotland to take such a stance.
Judy Hamilton,  spokesperson for housing and building services  (Pic: Submitted)Judy Hamilton,  spokesperson for housing and building services  (Pic: Submitted)
Judy Hamilton, spokesperson for housing and building services (Pic: Submitted)

An emergency housing action plan will now be brought to its Cabinet Committee in June after he housing situation in the Kingdom officially tipped from a state of crisis into a state of emergency.

At today’s full council meeting, Labour, Lib-Dem and Tory colleagues voted to declare a housing emergency with Councillor Judy Hamilton, the administration’s housing spokesperson stating: “The day has arrived,”

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She cited increasing housing and homelessness pressures facing Fife. She said the situation is becoming “ever more serious.”

She added: “I hoped I would never have to bring this motion to the council because it’s not a place that any of us wanted to be. We tackled every challenge head on and we’ve worked hard to avert this. By declaring a housing emergency today, we hope to draw wide-scale attention to an issue of urgent importance with united action. Fife Council alongside around 15 other councils are breaching, or are at risk of breaching, statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation or suitable accommodation.”

Cllr Hamilton revealed that there are more than 13,500 people on Fife’s housing register, and that the council is expecting to have around 2700 new homelessness applications by the end of March - a 7% increase from previous years.

Council Leader David Ross (Labour) agreed that now is the time to declare an emergency and bring attention to the pressures facing Fife’s housing service. SNP group leader David Alexander opposed the declaration and called the message and timing nothing but politics.

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“If we thought that declaring a housing emergency now would bring in substantial resources to make a difference, we would support that, but slogans don’t do that and delaying action until June is just that - another delay and there have been enough of them,” he said.

The SNP argued that, if there was a time to call a housing emergency, it was in May 2022 when a sheriff court judgement forced the council to change how it used temporary accommodation. The party argued that there was yet another opportunity to declare an emergency after it was revealed that Fife was breaching its statutory housing duties in October 2022.

Councillor David Barratt (Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, SNP) argued: “Since then, service managers have been telling us pressures are less acute. Committee reports point to voids slowly reducing and the council is now meeting its statutory obligations [more consistently], so it seems odd declaring now and not before.”

The two parties also argued about where to place the blame for the housing emergency.

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Labour Councillor Mary Bain Lockhart (Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty) said she refused to engage in “political tit-for-tattery” calling it a “waste of time.”

“We’ve now been in a crisis for about 10 years in terms of housing. And the Answer to any crisis lies in radical reform,” she said. “All we’ve been doing at every level is managing the crisis and mitigating its impact on our constituents. Now we’re at the stage where that crisis has become an emergency -and I believe we should call an emergency out when we see it.”

She continued: “That calls for immediate action and it’s not helpful for us to be dividing along party lines of whose fault it is and where the blame lies. We need radical reform and we need to work together to agree on what comprises the elements of that reform.”

Councillors voted 36-31 to declare an emergency.