Council homes set for £22m facelift
THOUSANDS of householders in an Essex town will receive new bathrooms, kitchens, heating systems and windows thanks to a £22 million Government grant.The move comes after council house tenants in Colchester voted to set up an Arms Length Management Company (ALMO) to run the borough's residential stock.
THOUSANDS of householders in an Essex town will receive new bathrooms, kitchens, heating systems and windows thanks to a £22 million Government grant.
The move comes after council house tenants in Colchester voted to set up an Arms Length Management Company (ALMO) to run the borough's residential stock.
Yesterday Tim Young, chairman of the resulting ALMO, Colchester Borough Homes, said news of the grant was "fantastic".
The £22.176 million grant was announced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) yesterday and earmarked for improving the 6,500 homes managed by the ALMO.
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In April, Colchester Borough Homes achieved a two star rating from the Audit Commission and as a result the council was given an initial £13.5 million to begin the task of improving council homes.
The government said at the time that a further £22 million would be available at a later stage depending on resources available and if good progress was being made towards the "decent homes" standard.
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Yesterday Mr Young – leader of the Labour Group on Colchester Borough Council and former cabinet member with responsibility for housing – said the improvements in housing would be based on need throughout the Colchester area.
"This extra money means we will be able to do every property in the borough and bring it up to the 'decent homes' standard.
"We have already done Monkwick and Shrub End. We're currently doing St Anne's and St Andrew's, and then it will go down the list in terms of need until all of the properties are done by 2007.
"When I first backed the setting up of the ALMO I had a lot of criticism and was vilified by a number of sections of the political spectrum.
"I think this totally vindicates the stand we and the tenants took, and now they have been rewarded for their faith in voting through the ALMO."
Before it allocated the extra money, the ODPM wanted to see that the new arms length management organisation had kept the promises it had made to tenants when it was first formed, and that the team in Colchester had a sound plan for future improvements.
This involved Colchester Borough Homes and their repairs partner, Inspace, producing a "building cost model" to show what would be spent and where.
The money will be spent on new kitchens, bathrooms, windows and central heating systems for tenants' homes, and will be focused in areas where the biggest impact can be made on people's quality of life.
Nigel Chapman, Colchester Borough Council's Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Safety, said: "This announcement is a real testimony to the hard work put in over the last couple of years.
"We have worked in partnership with Colchester Borough Homes and Inspace to give the Government confidence in our future plans.
"This means a total of £35 million of new money will come to Colchester over a five year period to improve tenants' homes."