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City housing service under review to better help vulnerable residents

Cambridge Guildhall. Picture Keith Heppell
Cambridge Guildhall. Picture Keith Heppell

Urgently needed council homes will only come with devolution agreement.'

The new proposals include:

Carrying out a review of management and staffing levels

Reviewing expenditure in respect of day to day repairs and repairs undertaken when properties are handed back to the council

Reviewing expenditure on disabled adaptations

Reviewing the planned maintenance programme to council homes

Assessing options for sharing housing services with other councils

Plans to change the city council’s housing service aim to improve efficiency, target resources on those people in greatest need and make provision for savings.

The recommendations of two reports will be decided on the 22nd this month - the Housing Revenue Account Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) and the Housing Transformation Programme Update.

Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “Given the pressures on the council’s finances it’s important that we find ways of becoming even more efficient.

“This means looking at how we do things now and seeing whether there are different ways of providing services that help us to target those people who are in greatest need of our help.

“We will build as many council homes as we can but the big numbers that the city urgently needs will only come if a devolution deal can be agreed with government – something that requires agreement by a number of councils as well as Whitehall.

“We need to be able to adapt quickly to changes in national housing policy that could affect our budgets further and taking the right steps now will put us in a better position to do that.

“Our priority remains minimising and mitigating the impact of any changes in our services on tenants, particularly the most vulnerable people.”

The council say that they have already reduced the number of days it takes to carry out necessary repairs and health and safety works to council homes, and the time taken to re-let a standard property to a new tenant has been cut from 34 days last year, to 26 days in the first quarter of this financial year.

In terms of savings, the reports propose making provision for £1 million from the council’s housing service for 2017-2018 with up to a further £1 million in 2018-19.

The devolution deal could provide £70 million for new councils homes. The council’s financial strategy allows for a small programme of new council homes to be built using Right to Buy receipts from council house sales, with £32 million available for new builds between 2017 and 2019.

Last year, the government told councils to cut housing rents by 1% annually for four years, and 2017-18 will be the second year of reductions. Over the four years this means the council’s income from rents would be reduced by £14.88m by 2019-20.

The government are yet to confirm its requirements of councils on the sale of high value assets and rent levels for households earning more than £31k per year.

Council tenants would be consulted on any changes that directly affect them. A further financial report is set to be presented to Housing Scrutiny Committee in January.

Cllr Price will decide whether to approve the recommendations in both reports at Housing Scrutiny Committee on 22 September.

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