Baker’s Bulletin - Recruitment problems need an affordable housing response

In the North East we face chronic problems recruiting public sector workers and this is a big problem for our local services.

From the NHS struggling to recruit nurses to our police relying on probationers coming in from across Scotland to help in our communities the challenge in recruitment is clear.

We have seen these issues remain for some time now with little progress being made in increasing Scottish Government support for our local public sector, despite the obvious problems they are experiencing.

The North East is a great place to live and home to some of the most beautiful scenery in Britain. However it is also a very expensive place with property prices in the North East proving to be a stumbling block for many of the workers who we hope to attract and a difficulty also for young people and families already here.

It is clear that there are a range of issues which contribute to these problems from funding levels to training. However one of the main factors is a lack of investment in affordable housing.

While our local authorities are making some progress in taking forward plans for more affordable housing, it is clear that more support is needed from the Scottish Government. For example the levels of housing association grant awarded in the Aberdeenshire in 2008/09 were almost £24 million. In 2013/14, this figure was only £1.8 million. The Scottish Government have announced plans for new housing for key workers in Aberdeen on the site of the former HMP Craiginches however much more needs to be done.

This Scottish Government is not ambitious enough on housing and I know that we could do so much better. Scottish Labour also put forward proposals to the housing act which went through the Scottish Parliament last year which would have banned rip off rent rises which would have protected 11,000 private rent tenants in Aberdeenshire.

What we need here in the North East is an affordable housing response to our recruitment crisis. Not only would this create jobs, this would help bring to the area the staff we need for our public services providing them and families in the North East an affordable place to live.