Council housing repairs backlog doubles, prompting criticism from Conservatives

Posted On 21 Oct 2021 at 6:40 pm

The housing repairs backlog has doubled since Brighton and Hove City Council brought the service in-house, prompting criticism from the Conservatives.

And the number of empty council houses and flats has risen by more than 70 per cent despite thousands desperate for a home.

The party also said that a strike by housing repair workers during the past year, after the service was brought in-house, cost almost £2.3 million to resolve.

Councillor Mary Mears, who speaks for the Conservatives on housing, said that bill would be paid by council tenants through their rents and by leaseholders through their contributions to the council’s Housing Revenue Account.

The criticisms came as the council faced legal action from other councils after placing homeless people and rough sleepers “out of area” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Councillor Mears, a former leader of the council, said that housing was an area that needed particular scrutiny from her party and the public.

The housing repairs backlog had gone up from 3,204 to 6,960 while the number of empty and unlet properties went up from 160 to 277.

She said: “Labour and the Greens run a joint programme in housing as part of a coalition agreement, meaning that this is an area that needs particular scrutiny.

“The performance of the council on housing is in its worst ever state, with council house tenants and homeless people paying the price for the shambles.

“The ideological decision to in-source the housing repairs service by Labour and the Greens has been a complete failure, blowing out in cost, leading to immediate strike action and a costly settlement –  and generating a backlog that has doubled in the past 12 months and will take at least two years to clear.”

Councillor Mears added: “The number of council homes sitting vacant and unlet has risen to 277 and we are seeing properties sit empty for months if not years as a result of the council’s inability to undertake repairs to bring these properties to a let-able standard.

“Despite the council having reported receiving government funding totalling £21 million to address homelessness and rough sleeping since the start of the pandemic, evidence has emerged that the city has placed homeless people and rough sleepers in accommodation without adequate support, including at Kendal Court.

“The administration needs to take emergency action to ensure that homeless people and rough sleepers who are placed in accommodation by Brighton and Hove City Council have proper 24-hour support to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

“We will also be calling on the Audit and Standards Committee to commission a report to audit all government funding received to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping through the pandemic.”

Councillor Gill Williams, who speaks for Labour on the Housing Committee, said that having resolved the industrial dispute, the focus now had to be on improving the service.

She said: “We have successfully brought our repair service in-house which has meant better conditions for staff. What we must now focus on is providing the best possible service for our tenants.

“The repair service itself unfortunately leaves much to be desired and this is where we must now put in our efforts.

“Performance remains off target as the service continues to work through the backlog caused by the coronavirus lockdowns.

“It is important to emphasise that we are hugely grateful to all our staff who have put themselves at risk to deliver an essential repairs service during the covid crisis.

“And we thank all those involved for the work that has gone into planning to make sure that our tenants and our staff are as safe as they possibly can be during this time.”

She added: “Getting our repairs service right for tenants must be an absolute priority.”

  1. Linda Jameson Reply

    The service was decided to be in-sourced while Anne Meadows (then labour) was running housing. if they are so opposed to it why did they bring back Anne Meadows as a Tory councillor? Is she not to blame if its not worked?

  2. Sarah Reply

    Perhaps they need to consider how much of the backlog is down to the pandemic & how much to the winding down & general disinterest of the previous contractor once the decision to bring the service back in house was made

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