Nicola Sturgeon: Scots councils could be sanctioned for breaking temporary housing rules

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The Scottish Government will consider introducing sanctions on councils that fail to comply with temporary accommodation rules, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Official figures published in the Herald on Sunday found regulations had been breached by local authorities hundreds of times over the past 18 months, causing homeless children and pregnant women to be placed in unsuitable housing.

Nicola Sturgeon says local authorities could face sanctions for failing to comply with rules on temporary housing. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon says local authorities could face sanctions for failing to comply with rules on temporary housing. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Unsuitable Temporary Accommodation (UTA) orders were brought in to provide protection to families and ensure they do not stay in temporary accommodation (such as B&Bs) for more than seven days.

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According to the figures, councils breached the order a total of 750 times over the past year and a half - with Edinburgh City Council making up 72% of the national total (540 breaches).

At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Scottish Labour MSP Pauline McNeil asked whether the Scottish Government would consider introducing legally enforceable standards for temporary accommodations - which could include provisions such as the right to a cooker and the right to a fridge.

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“We will consider all recommendations of that nature,” Ms Sturgeon responded.

“One of the things we will consult on are suitable sanctions for councils who are not complying with the rules in this area.

“I think it’s important to say that the vast majority of families in temporary accommodation are in the socially rented sector.

“We have that time protection now for families, women with children and pregnant women, and that’s what we’re looking to extend.”

Ms Sturgeon also said Housing Minister Kevin Stewart had spoken to councils in breach of UTA orders and said the Scottish Government is aiming to transform temporary accommodation in the country.

“Temporary accommodation provides an important safety net in emergencies and our Ending Homelessness Together action plan is very clear that this accommodation must be high quality, with stays as short as possible,” she said.

“The vast majority of families with children or pregnant women are given temporary accommodation in the social-rented sector.

“For others, the Unsuitable Accommodation Order provides extra protection to ensure that families don’t stay in unsuitable accommodation, for example bed and breakfasts, for more than seven days.

“Breaches of that should not be tolerated and the Housing Minister has already met with councils concerned to discuss solutions.

“As part of our plans to transform temporary accommodation, later this year we will also consult on extending that protection to all homeless households and the consultation will ask for views on suitable sanctions for any council that fails to comply.”