A Tayside housing chief has rounded on an Angus councillor for what he described as his “negative portrayal of social housing tenants and the homeless”.
Angus Housing Association director Bruce Forbes called on Richard Moore to apologise and said he has “never heard so much ill-informed nonsense in my 40 years experience working in social housing”.
Mr Forbes described Mr Moore’s comments on the cause of the council’s rent arrears as “disgraceful” and called on him to apologise “for his insulting remarks which scapegoat the homeless and the vast majority of decent social housing tenants”.
He said: “This type of stereotyping of the homeless and those living in social housing is so prejudiced and lacking in any factual analysis that it is nothing short of disgraceful.
“Councillor Moore claims to have previously encountered this type of behaviour ‘south of the border’ but to be frank, I have never heard so much ill-informed nonsense in my 40 years experience working in social housing.
“His portrayal of those who have suffered the pain of homelessness as some kind of transient group of fraudsters who transport themselves and their families around the country from council area to council area just to avoid paying rent or council tax is so ill informed that it beggars belief.
“Anyone with any basic knowledge of this subject could inform Councillor Moore that the causes of homelessness and debt in Scotland are many and complex.”
The level of debt from rent absconders is rising and Angus Council is owed £2.4 million in unpaid rent, including £1,363,000 from former tenants.
Mr Forbes said that in his 25 years working in Angus he has “never once encountered the scrounger scenario he describes”.
He said: “Of course, there is a tiny minority, much less than 1% of tenants in my experience, who try to avoid paying all that they owe in rent.
“That is, however, why we have the courts to help us pursue debts.”
Mr Moore hit back at the criticism and said Mr Forbes had missed the main focus of his comments.
He stressed that he had made it quite clear that he was referring to a “tiny minority” and said he did not mean any disrespect for the vast majority of tenants
He said: “I was raising a subject which hasn’t been made public previously and suggested one way to try to address it.
“I made it quite clear that my comments referred to a ‘tiny minority’. These people may not be homeless or destitute, they may not be in need of accommodation; what I said was that they present themselves as being so.
“Furthermore, I haven’t claimed that this tiny minority are the full cause of the arrears, only that they are a cause and it is a cost which the public shouldn’t be having to bear.
“I bear in mind always the words of John Bradford, from the 16th century, ‘There but for the grace of God…’, knowing it could have been me.
“In no way did I mean any disrespect for the vast majority of tenants just the tiny minority who ‘play the system’ and cost these tenants as well as private householders.”