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20 March 2014 | Gurjit Degun
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has hit out at the Scottish government for not reclassifying housing associations in the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill.
The criticism came on the same day (19 March) that the bill passed through the second stage where it was scrutinised by the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee.
The SFHA said that it is “extremely disappointed” that the government has not taken this as an opportunity to “resolve the anomalous position of Scotland’s 162 housing associations”.
SFHA policy manager Susan Torrance said that many of the housing associations are small businesses with staff “fully occupied in dealing with welfare reform changes”.
She added: “We are deemed public contracting authorities and subject to public procurement rules because of a 10-year-old European Court ruling against French social landlords, wrongly applied to housing associations in the UK. In reality the majority of our income comes from tenants’ rents, not the public purse.
“The Scottish Government could have chosen to adopt a more sensible approach in the bill, but we are again burdened with procurement requirements far more suited to large public sector organisations rather than not-for-profit social enterprises and charities.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The approach proposed by the Scottish Government is for public bodies currently included within the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2012 to remain so under the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill. However, were the sector to argue successfully for registered social landlords to be removed from the scope of the EU Directives, then they would also fall out of scope of the bill.”
A date is yet to be set for the third stage when the bill returns to be considered by the full Parliament.