Housing repairs for Brighton and Hove council tenants to be carried out by new in-house team

Council house repairs, refurbishments and customer services will be brought back in-house by Brighton and Hove City Council when the current 10-year contract ends.

The work is currently carried out by the private contractor Mears along with other related work on council houses and flats.

But the change will hit tenants in the pocket, according to Conservative members of the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee.

They tried to block the changes when the committee met at Hove Town Hall yesterday (Thursday 11 October) but Labour and Green councillors joined forces to push through the change.

Conservative deputy leader Councillor Steve Bell asked for the final decision to go before the full council due to meet on Thursday 18 October.

He said: “The HRA (Housing Revenue Account) is a very important budget item. It is the tenants’ money that goes into this and we are responsible to them on how we spend it.

“Each and every councillor has tenants within their wards. Although it has been through Housing and New Homes and now this committee, we have not, we believe, given every councillor the opportunity to speak for their wards.”

His amendment, seconded by Councillor Andrew Wealls, a fellow Tory, was defeated by Labour and the Greens.

The Labour council leader Daniel Yates said: “If those 54 councillors wished, any one of them could have addressed the committee.

“Any one could have written to written to submit a question.”

He gestured to the gallery and said that Conservative councillor Mary Mears and Labour councillor Alan Robins were the only members attending who were not part of the committee.

Labour councillor Gill Mitchell said: “We have heard how this contract has been extensively consulted on. Every single proper democratic step has been taken.

“I do not see the reasoning now in delaying this decision.”

Councillor Steve Bell

Green group convenor Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said that the decision had even been considered at a special committee meeting.

He said: “We are worried if this goes to full council, we are worried the Conservatives are trying to shelve this report.

“We are worried about the impact on the staff who need some degree of certainty and forward thinking.”

A Conservative amendment would have put repairs and refurbishment work out to contract for five years.

And the money that will be spent setting the in-house service would have been used to fund council housing.

Neighbourhoods, communities and housing executive director Larissa Reed told the committee how extensive consultation work had been carried out with feedback from residents and costs by Savills.

Excellent customer services and value for money were key to make the programme a success, she said.

And there would be a strong focus on proactive maintenance of existing assets

A budget of £112,000 is earmarked to cover the cost of setting up the new service and a reserve of £982,000 put by from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA).

One contract is going out to tender – for planned maintenance and improvements to council housing stock.

Major and specialist works will also be carried out by contractors.

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