Urgent council home repairs leaves £666,000 hole in finances

Mid Suffolk District Council has gone over budget on allowances by �89,000 Picture: ARCHANT

Mid Suffolk District Council has gone over budget on allowances by �89,000 Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: ARCHANT

A new team formed last year to carry out repairs and maintenance on council homes has cost £666,000 more than expected, new figures have revealed.

Babergh Mid Suffolk Building Services (BMBS) was established last year and carries out repair and maintenance on council properties in the two districts.

The team aims to be more flexible than relying on outside contractors.

However figures published by both councils for their cabinet meetings this week has revealed that work to carry out essential repairs early on has resulted in a £666,000 overspend in the first three months of this year – £368,000 at Mid Suffolk and £298,000 at Babergh.

The report said: “The voids project was implemented in November 2017 to reduce the number of days that council houses remain empty and to ensure that we maximise our potential lettings income.

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“To ensure this happens it has been necessary to use external contractors to carry out essential works to those properties.”

The work has meant that the number of void days – days in which council properties were unoccupied because repairs were needed – had dropped from 54 to 34 from September to June at Mid Suffolk, and 54 to 17 in Babergh.

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Gavin Fisk, assistant director for housing, said the team is funded through rent collected.

“As the service was set up last year, additional costs have been incurred as part of its implementation and have been offset by savings elsewhere in the housing service provision,” he said. “As such the costs have balanced themselves out. These are one off start-up costs and will not be incurred again.

“With implementation of this service we are now able to provide a more flexible and bespoke service to meet the need of our communities. BMBS is able to reduce the amount of time it takes to re-let an empty home by an average of 25 days.

“The costs associated to running this valuable service ensures our council housing stock is maintained to the highest standard and we can offer a quality customer service.”

Rachel Eburne, Green group leader at Mid Suffolk, said: “Despite reassurances, the original assumptions for the business plan were overly optimistic and then it was not closely monitored enough. It is hopeful that with new management this will improve.”

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