View from Storriefit Mountain

What is the definition of affordable homes? Or rather how much do they cost and what factors determine the price or rent of a home?

Politicians keep harping about building more affordable homes but during the last Scottish Borders local elections, I asked this question to wanna be councillors at the hustings in Peebles, none had an answer. When I spoke to government and council officials about how much a two-bedroom place would cost under ‘affordable homes’ in Peebles, the answers you got depended on where and who you were talking to i.e. their pay grade and socio-economic status.

Policies, whether local or national, favour the rich and the powerful and local communities are left to pick up the pieces of what remains of their lives. It now takes two to four weeks to get a GP’s appointment or the other alternative is to phone on the day and try to get an emergency appointment with any GP!

Banks and other lenders currently offer anything from 2.5 times to four times your gross salary for a mortgage with anywhere from 60 per cent to 100 per cent loan to value on a property.

It’s not rocket science once you make some very basic calculations. An individual on £75,000pa will define £250,000 as affordable but an individual on the minimum wage (over 25s) earning only £17,076.80pa would class £68,000 as affordable taking the four times lending criteria.

A couple on a combined salary of £34,153.60 would be able to access to £137,000, way short of what is actually the price of a home in Peebles. The figures just don’t add up. The Scottish Borders is the lowest wage area in Scotland and jobs opportunities are minimal especially for young people and families. I have done these calculations for the benefit of our elected representatives, so they know their figures and stop lying to the public.

We need more council and housing association homes in the area not more of Lego land at extortionate prices that only individuals on high salaries can afford, ultimately pricing out locals from the area. Plus no selling of properties as second homes.

The local rent set out by the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is £312 per month for one bedroom flat in Peebles. If you are renting through a housing association then the costs are very reasonable, but not with a private landlord. The current rents are anywhere from £450 upwards in an area like Peebles! Not so affordable after all.

Some of our own elected representatives think they are above us all and we are to be blamed for this sad state of affairs as we hand our trust to individuals who have their own agendas; be it party politics or own self-interest.

As anybody with a bit of common sense will tell you, more houses = more people = more cars = more strain on limited resources. It seems to me that our elected members don’t quite understand these issues.


Vending Machines

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on vending machines.

Why are most fitness and leisure centres equipped with vending machines that give access to unhealthy foods and drinks to its users? What message are we sending out to the wider public? That it’s ok to keep fit while at the same time consume junk food and sugary drinks when you are finished with your exercise regime?

LIVE Borders runs the leisure centres in the Scottish Borders. The swimming pool and the Gytes leisure centre currently have three types of vending machines on site: Hot drinks i.e. tea/coffees; soft drinks/energy drinks and crisp/chocolate bars. On one hand the Scottish government is trying to bring in policies and legislation to combat the rise of obesity in Scotland while on the other hand it’s business as usual.

These machines are also found in our schools and hospitals! Over £550,000 was raised through sale of snacks and fizzy drinks alone in Scottish hospitals. There has been calls from health experts to ban these items and switch to healthier options.

The NHS is meant to cure you and make you feel better not turn you into a fast food junkie!

In 2005 the British Medical Association (BMA) called for urgent action to tackle the UK’s child obesity epidemic. Doctors urged the UK government to ban school vending machines that sell unhealthy fizzy drinks and snacks and introduce mandatory nutrition guidelines for all school meals. The cost of obesity-related illness and poor diet to the NHS is about £2bn a year and rising! These are figures from 2005! They have almost tripled now with no government regulation in place to stop manufactures from adding excess sugar and salt in all our foods and drinks and promoting and marketing their products on impressionable minds. Children and young people that use these facilities are constantly exposed to these vending machines that are playing a major part in developing a life-long addiction to sugar and salt.

Discipline and organising your meals go a long way in helping stop the cravings and the urges for fast foods. These items contain a lot of chemicals (E numbers) to give you a boost after a workout or swim but in the long term have a detrimental effect on your mind and body. When you consume fast foods and fizzy drinks on a regular basis, your brain does not function effectively as studies have proved time and again. Some studies showed that people do badly on cognitive tests compared to those eating healthy foods. You gain more weight and are prone to developing diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure eg. eating fast food for five days disrupts your muscles from oxidising glucose.

On a final note, there are healthy vending machines available that can be installed after the current vending machine contracts with private companies expire.

One easy solution that is free and we all need it is sleep. Whatever you do, don’t under-estimate the power of a good night’s sleep to stay healthy and keep your waistline slim.