DURING the recent big freeze Wrexham Council’s housing repair unit handled more than three times the usual number of pleas for help from tenants.

It normally deals with 200 calls a day but during December, as temperatures plummeted, It was receiving 700.

According to the council’s chief housing and public protection officer Andy Lewis the fact that it was able to cope with, and act on so many calls was largely down to a set of new working practices in the department suggested by outside consultants.

They came in two years ago to help the authority streamline its procedures and finished their work at the end of last month.

At their meeting next Tuesday, members of the council’s executive board will be given a progress report on the changes introduced.

These include training maintenance operatives to ‘multi-skill’ by learning two trades at once, such as plastering and joinery, so they can complete a job more efficiently, and an MoT-style system of checking council homes for outstanding problems before they become a headache for tenants.

The council also acted on a suggestion from the consultants to have the private company Travis Perkins take over the £1 million-a-year supply of building materials from the council’s own in-house operation.

Another major step has been issuing repairs operatives with handheld computers to assign them promptly and efficiently to jobs and provide and give an update on how these are being dealt with.

Mr Lewis said: “This system is particularly useful in emergency situations such as last December when we were dealing with more than a threefold increase in calls from tenants about such things as water bursts.

“The changes we have made mean that we now have the lowest housing maintenance costs in Wales and amongst the lowest in the UK.”

Council leader Aled Roberts, said: “In the past things had been run for the benefit of the department but is now run for the benefit of tenants.

“We are now well on target for dealing with our repairs but it is still work in progress.”