POLITICIANS have fallen out over how to divide up the largest amount of money ever to be spent on Wrexham council houses.
A £23.5 million capital programme to bring Wrexham Council’s housing stock up to scratch has been given the go-ahead. But the method of allocating the funding to various parts of the county borough was described as an “alphabet lottery” by one councillor.
The cash will include funding for new kitchens and bathrooms for 2,100 council homes at a cost of more than £10m. The programme also features £3m for roofing, £2m for disability adaptations, £2m for central heating, £1.5m for major repairs, £1m for asbestos servicing and £500,000 on garages.
Members of the council’s executive board yesterday approved the programme for 2013/14, which represents a substantial increase on the £13m programme for the current financial year.
But a row broke out over proposals to roll out the bathroom and kitchen upgrades alphabetically by community council.
Cllr David A Bithell, leader of the Wrexham Independents Group, said: “I’m a little bit concerned about the recommendation to agree on prioritisation based alphabetically. It reminds me of an episode of Sesame Street.
“I’m not sure if this is the right way a council should deal with a capital programme. I would rather see a fair percentage across the board.”
His concerns were echoed by Cllr Carol O’Toole who said: “I don’t think it would be responsible to do it alphabetically.
“My fear is if we start the kitchen and bathroom programme as suggested and the money runs out, those living in an area at the beginning of the alphabet will see improvements and those at the back end won’t.
“It’s an alphabet lottery that doesn’t seem fair.”
In response Cllr Mark Pritchard, lead member for housing and planning, said: “We have to start and we have to finish somewhere. In Wrexham we’ve sat on our hands for too long and I think this is nonsense.
“This should be celebrated and we should all move forward.”
He was backed by Cllr Hugh Jones, who said: “The risk factor of whether an area will be missed out is applicable whatever method you choose.”
Cllr O’Toole put forward an amendment that the kitchen and bathroom refit be rolled out with equal funding to be distributed to each ward in the county borough.
Her amendment was defeated with three votes in favour of the change and five against.
The main vote to approve the capital programme as it stood was backed with five votes in favour, one against and two abstentions.