§ Sir Alexander Fletcher
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans to seek to improve the average time taken to process council house sales by (a) the Edinburgh district council and (b) other local authorities in Scotland.
§ Mr. Ancram
Across Scotland as a whole there is evidence that authorities are becoming increasingly aware of the financial advantages to be gained by the efficient processing of council house sales. The average time taken by councils during the fourth quarter of 1986 was 7.5 months — close to the target figure of seven months which we consider reasonable.
I am concerned, however, at the length of time which some local authorities are taking to process sales. Because receipts from council house sales form part of an authority's annual gross capital allocation for housing, processing delays—which result in the authority failing to generate the receipts level anticipated during the year in question — cause real reductions in the authority's effective consent, and hence in its housing programme.
I have therefore instructed my Department to write today to four authorities — Edinburgh, Monklands, Dumbarton and Argyll and Bute district councils—each of which is taking longer than 11 months on average to process sales, drawing their attention to the serious consequences of these delays. I calculate, for example, that because of delays in processing sales Edinburgh district council has forgone almost £10 million of capital expenditure consents since 1983, equivalent to approximately 10 per cent. of its gross housing capital allocation over the period. The letter asks for an early indication of the steps the four authorities propose to take to ensure that sales are completed within a reasonable period.