Tenants face higher utility bills because of repairs backlog

Council tenants said that they faced higher utility bills because of a growing routine repairs backlog that included leaking taps and broken and poorly insulated windows.

The human and financial cost of the thousands of outstanding routine repairs has come into focus as concerns grow about the cost of living.

Tenants waited an average of 71 days for routine repairs in April to June, according to a Brighton and Hove City Council performance review.

The wait has grown since the previous quarter and is affected by the rising number of repair jobs as the backlog grows.

Hollingdean Residents’ Association representative Ian Beck said yesterday (Wednesday 17 August) that he waiting for a bath tap to be repaired and had received a higher than average bill.

Mr Beck told a council housing management panel: “I’m throwing water down the drain because a 10-minute repair hasn’t been done.”

The council’s four housing management panels met yesterday and on Tuesday – and the cost to tenants of the repairs backlog was a recurring complaint. Some of them among the poorest residents in Brighton and Hove.

Woodingdean rep Janet Gearing said on Tuesday that the repairs team should prioritise urgent window repairs before the energy price cap rises again.

Labour councillor Gill Williams agreed and said that the council could pay a contractor to help secure windows just for this winter.

Councillor Williams said: “I know everyone is really worried about this. If one thing we can do is to insulate draughty windows, even if it is temporary for one winter, this is a possibility. But we would have to go to procurement.

“We must do what we can to help our residents cope with the fuel crisis – and making sure homes are in good repair is essential to this.

“I am investigating how best we can ensure that windows are in the best condition possible ahead of this winter.”

Council building control surveyor Grant Ritchie said: “The repairs service is still dealing with about 9,000 jobs which accumulated during successive lockdowns and because of depleted resource over this time.

“This means that we must prioritise works – and less urgent repairs will take longer to complete.

“The repairs service has undertaken a large recruitment programme and is also currently mobilising 11 new specialist contractors across all workstreams.

“This will allow us to address the older jobs and bring us back to a position where repairs progress much more efficiently and in line with our targets.”

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