Falkirk Council’s SNP Group Leader, Cecil Meiklejohn has called on the council’s leaders to become more open and transparent in the development of Housing policy. This follows the revelation that Falkirk Council is in discussions with Scottish Government officials regarding the use of pension funds to build council houses.
The SNP are angry that in September 2012 an SNP motion to investigate using up to 5% of the council’s pension fund for construction of new council housing was rejected by the Labour / Conservative Administration. During the debate Labour Housing chief Gerry Goldie and council leader, Craig Martin were particularly scathing of the SNP proposal.
Now it has been revealed that Falkirk Council officials are in talks with Holyrood Civil Servants on this very matter despite the stated opposition of the current Administration within the debating chambers.
News of the backroom u-turn came in a written answer to a question asked by Falkirk East MSP, Angus MacDonald.
The SNP MSP asked Scottish Minsiters,
“Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (Scottish National Party): To ask the Scottish Government what recent progress has been made in encouraging local authority pension funds to invest in affordable and social housing.
In response the Minister, Margaret Burgess responded by saying,
Ms Margaret Burgess MSP:
I refer the member to the answer to question S4W-09429 on 20 September 2012, the Scottish Government has continued in discussion with a range of parties interested in providing pension fund and institutional investment for housing in Scotland.
This includes Falkirk Council, who recently advised that they are in a position to discuss how their interest in applying their pension funds for housing might be supported. Scottish Government officials are scheduled to meet with Falkirk next month.
All answers to written Parliamentary Questions are available on the Parliament’s website, the search facility for which can be found at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx.
Cllr Meiklejohn said,
“I am grateful to Angus MacDonald for his continued interest in local government issues and his actions on behalf of the people of Falkirk East.
However, I am deeply concerned at the lack of openness, transparency and consistency within the Labour / Tory Administration.
It is clear that the SNP proposal was one that was supported by the current council leaders but for reasons best known to themselves they cant bring themselves to be seen to support an SNP initiative,
Instead council officers are being made to disregard the actual votes taken within the council chamber and accept instructions that actually run contrary to the council’s publically derived position after Labour and Tory Councillors voted down SNP proposals for this purpose.
That is an extremely worrying development and one that I am sure council officials are concerned about.
What we need is more honesty and transparency in Housing matters. To say one thing but do the opposite in such a cynical manner brings the Administration into disrepute, quite frankly the people of Falkirk district deserve better.
Quote from Angus MacDonald,
“I am surprised but delighted that Falkirk Council’s Coalition Administration appear to be moving towards the SNP position on this important issue.
However, the insecurity within the Labour leadership in particular is becoming a worrying obstacle to progress in policy development.
It was only a few months ago that the SNP were being ridiculed for proposing the option council officers are investigating at present.
Furthermore it was only a few weeks ago the leader of Falkirk Council, Craig Martin, was writing to the local press claiming credit for the Independent Group’s motion on Pay Day Loan Companies.
He needs to appreciate that the general public don’t care who comes forward with sensible policies, they just want a mature debate and their elected Councillors to work together for the good of the district.”