A leaked document has raised the prospect of an end to the free qualification of the popular Garden Aid scheme. The service, introduced by the SNP in the late 1970s is available to all pensioners and disabled younger people is currently available free of charge to all qualifying applicants.
However, under a proposal being considered by the Falkirk Council’s ruling Labour Tory coalition those service recipients not living in a council house will be charged £120 per year for the service. The service currently costs the council £615,000 per year of which £267,000 is allocated from the General Fund (Council Tax) with £345,000 from the Housing Revenue Account (rent).
Housing Head of Service, Jennifer Litts argues that this would save £250,000 for the General Fund and could be argued that this could be justified as the council would be acting then as a landlord capacity.
SNP Housing spokesperson, Cllr Steven Carleschi said,
“It seems that there are few differences in the policies and very ethos between the Labour Party and their Tory partners both seem to want to attack the most vulnerable groups within our community.
These proposals are divisive in that they could, if implemented, divide council tenant from owner occupiers and private tenants.
Perhaps this is what Johann Lamont meant when she accused Scots of having a “something for nothing culture”
It’s time that the council coalition leaders realise that the current generation of pensioners have worked, paid their taxes and now deserve to be regarded as more than a source of income for Labour and Tory politicians.
It makes no difference to the issue of need if a pensioner lives in a council house or any other type of property yet this proposal not only divides but also discriminates”
As well as proposing a new range of charges for Garden Aid the paper also argues that increasing the age qualification to 70, a proposal that has brought ridicule from the SNP who accuse the Labour Councillors of seeking to “out Tory the Tories”.
Said Cllr Carleschi,
“The Tory Westminster Government wants to raise the retirement age to 70 and, hey presto, Falkirk Labour Group are ahead of them with that policy.
We must remember that Falkirk Council are predicting a £2.2m underspend this year having under spent by £4.3m the previous year so why the attack on the local retired community?”