Future of council housing set to be agreed
Published on 2nd August 2012
Town hall chiefs in Sandwell are poised to launch a new deal for council housing in the borough.
The council's cabinet is set to approve plans to return council housing services to the local authority's control - and plough nearly £500 million into improving homes over the next decade.
New council homes will be built and more than 7,000 homes improved. This will help with the ever growing need for housing in the borough.
And tenants will be fully involved in shaping the future of council housing in the borough, say council leaders.
A special conference will be held at Sandwell Council House in Oldbury from 10am on Saturday 8 September with tenants and leaseholders, to launch a new way for tenants to have their say on future plans and services.
The borough's 29,000 council properties are currently run by Sandwell Homes, at 'arms length' from the council. This management agreement was originally set to end in September 2014.
But the Government has now cut the Decent Homes programme of improvements, which was being carried out mainly by Sandwell Homes.
The council believes that money saved by returning the organisation to its control as soon as possible will mean more money for improving homes and will mean that the timescales for improving homes can be brought forward. There will also be more money for improving frontline services.
And the savings will form part of a new £490 million housing investment plan for Sandwell for the next 10 years, which will see significant improvements to homes and estates as well as new council houses built.
Next Wednesday (8 August), the borough's cabinet is set to approve plans for Sandwell Homes' staff and services to return to the council's direct control at the start of the New Year.
Cabinet is also recommended to hold a 90-day consultation with trade unions and set up a project team to steer the successful return of staff and services.
The move follows an independently-led consultation in which two thirds of the 1,500 tenants who responded either supported or were neutral about the council's proposals.
Tenants will receive a final letter on the findings of the consultation from independent tenant advisor DWA in the next couple of weeks.
Councillor Simon Hackett, the council's cabinet member for housing, said: "Sandwell Homes has done some great work to improve housing over the years for thousands of tenants - and we thank the board, chair, employees, tenants and everyone involved.
"Now the time has come for us to find a new way to keep improving homes and services.
"With the Decent Homes money ending, we need to make savings by avoiding duplication of services and management structures between Sandwell Homes and Sandwell Council. This money can then be ploughed back into improvements and frontline services.
"The consultation shows there is no significant opposition - and I can assure tenants we will be involving them throughout and listening to their views on options for the future. This will include a special conference we will hold in September.
"Our 10-year investment programme is very exciting news for tenants - and will see us working to provide the next generation of good quality, warm and energy efficient homes for the future.
"For the first time in a generation the council will build new council houses year on year starting this current financial year."
The 10-year housing investment programme is also set to be approved at the cabinet meeting next Wednesday (8 August).