HC Deb 21 March 1991 vol 188 cc185-7W
Mr. Bill Walker

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress was made in the year to 31 March 1990 in bringing houses in Scotland up to the tolerable standard; what number of houses he estimates to fall below that standard; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Local authorities estimate that, in the year to 31 March 1990, 10,507 houses were brought up to the statutory tolerable standard and a small number were closed for occupation or demolished. This is a very substantial increase over the numbers reported as being improved in previous years, although figures may not be comparable for the reasons given below.

Until results become available from the national house condition survey, on which field work begins this year, it is not possible to offer a reliable estimate of the number of houses in Scotland below the tolerable standard (BTS). The information available to me on BTS houses is drawn from returns made by local housing authorities, giving their estimates of the number of houses in their district which fail to meet the standard as at 31 March each year. Local authorities have a statutory duty to assess the condition of the stock in their districts. The Government encourage local authorities to carry out local house condition surveys to improve their information base and in June 1988 issued detailed guidance on the conduct of surveys.

By 31 March 1990, 14 local surveys had been carried out. It appears that the results have led several authorities to revise upwards their previous figures of BTS houses. The number of houses reported as BTS on 31 March 1990 is 81,049, of which we estimate some 20 per cent. to be unoccupied. The returns for each local authority are set out in the table. The reported total represents an apparent increase of 25,151 on the published estimate for 31 March 1989. Most authorities reporting high percentage increases between these dates had completed local surveys by the end of March 1990. This, with the reported substantial increase in the number of BTS houses improved over the 12-month period, suggests that the reported increase in the Scottish total in the year to 31 March 1990 results from changes in the basis of measurement and does not indicate any sudden worsening in the condition of the housing stock.

A further 15 local authorities have now carried out, or are in the process of carrying out, local surveys and 10 more are understood to be planning surveys. As more authorities take account of survey results, there may be further revisions of the basis of their BTS returns, possibly leading to further reported increases in the BTS total. Direct comparisons of estimates compiled on the basis of survey results with those submitted previously by the same authorities, or with those compiled by other authorities without the benefit of local house condition surveys, are unlikely to be valid. A new statistical framework or series may be necessary and Scottish Office officials will consider the technical issues arising with representatives of local authorities.

Our policies and the level of financial provision for housing already recognise the need for substantial investment in houses in need of improvement and repair, including houses not previously classified as being below the tolerable standard. In the five years to 1989–90, a total of 330,200 houses have been improved in the public sector, and 156,200 in the private sector with the aid of grant. At the local level it is for individual local authorities to set their own priorities for housing, but section 85 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 places a duty on them to take action on BTS houses and we expect them to have full regard to that duty in administering the improvement and repair grant system, in determining investment priorities for their own stock, and in the use of the other appropriate statutory powers at their disposal. Scottish Homes will also play an important part in improving BTS houses in certain rural areas, and has identified this as one of the main priorities of its rural strategy.

Dwellings below the tolerable standard, 31 March 1990
District Number
Scotland 81,049
Berwickshire 723
Ettrick and Lauderdale 459
Roxburgh 939
Tweeddale1 500
Clackmannan 955
Falkirk 382
Stirling 458
Dumfries and Galloway
Annandale and Eskdale 187
Nithsdale 1,032
Stewartry 144
Wigtown 70
Dunfermline 327
Kirkcaldy 475
North East Fife 1,034
Aberdeen 1,130
Banff and Buchan 1,434
Gordon 907
Kincardine and Deeside 350
Moray 1,147
Badenoch and Strathspey 242
Caithness 354
Inverness 1,200
Lochaber 400
Nairn 29
Ross and Cromarty1 2,500
Skye and Lochalsh1 600
Sutherland 427
East Lothian 1,682
Edinburgh 4,785
Midlothian 399
West Lothian 426
Argyll and Bute 7,440
Bearsden and Milngavie 29
Clydebank1 11
Clydesdale 297
Cumbernauld and Kilsyth 53
Cumnock and Doon Valley 187
Cunninghame1 1,950

District Number
Dumbarton 91
East Kilbride 92
Eastwood 12
Glasgow 31,819
Hamilton 740
Inverclyde 3,318
Kilmarnock and Loudoun 168
Kyle and Carrick 350
Monklands 184
Motherwell 647
Renfrew 1,110
Strathkelvin 20
Angus1 882
Dundee 2,052
Perth and Kinross 670
Islands Councils
Orkney Islands 1,117
Shetland Islands 881
Western Isles 1,232
1 1990 return is outstanding. Figures are for 31 March 1989.

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