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Concerns over increase in empty council houses – meeting told of ‘headaches’ with contractors

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Thursday, Jul 12th, 2018.

Calls have been made for builders to be given tighter deadlines to complete renovations on council homes.

It comes as the number of empty council-owned properties in Wrexham has increased to 281 this year as external contractors struggle to keep up with a drive to improve the standard of work carried out.

Councillors criticised the delays as the current waiting list for houses estimated to stand at approximately 2,000.

Meanwhile, one councillor calculated that void properties are costing the authority in the region of £112,000 per month.

Speaking at a homes and environment scrutiny meeting , Cllr Graham Rogers said: “I have got some concerns, I’m going to be quite frank with you.
“I don’t think there’s any dispute in regards to the terminology that we should do it once and do it right.
“The concern I’ve got really is that we’ve got a waiting list of approximately 2,000 people and we’ve currently got 281 voids.
“I’ve argued and argued until I’m blue in the face and I believe that the 85 day deadline is far too high. I’d be much more comfortable if we were looking at a ball park figure of 70-75 days.”

Officers said that the 85 day figure only applied to larger houses and said new tenants were impressed with the quality of work carried out.

However, they admitted to a number of ‘headaches’ with contractors, particularly in Caia Park which is the largest housing estate in Wales.

Lead member for housing David Griffiths also revealed that the ageing population has led to an increase in the number houses being vacated, either because of people dying or moving into residential care.

Service manager Simon Roberts said: “First and foremost this is all about the tenants. These are their homes and they are the people who pay our wages so we need to remember that.

“Void numbers are always an issue, we did get them down to below 250 under the old standard.

“That’s been a real challenge and we’re not getting the numbers back we’d hoped for from the contractors.

“There’s one in particular, who ironically when we interviewed them, their philosophy was the most fitting with ours.

“Unfortunately they were awarded the biggest area which was Caia Park, but they’ve struggled to recruit locally meaning we’re not getting the number returned that we expected.

“As a consequence, timescales are suffering a little bit, but we’re almost at the cusp now where we believe we will start to see the numbers coming down.”

Councillors asked for a further report to be brought to a future meeting so they could monitor the progress made.

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).

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