'I wouldn’t let some of our council houses to a dog'

Reporter:

Claire Gallagher

NOT fit for a dog... that is the verdict of one councillor on some of the homes being let to tenants in his ward.

Cllr David Bithell, who covers the Johnstown area, was speaking at an executive meeting about council housing in Wrexham.

He said four of the 18 council houses let in his ward in the last year were “abysmal”, adding: “I wouldn’t let some of those properties to a dog.”

He told Wrexham Council colleagues he also had concerns about “voids” – the time between when one tenant leaves a house and another moves in. “I would like to see a policy where there is a proper sign-off procedure,” he said. The council report being considered by the executive said that the average number of days to complete each void was 42.47 days, compared with 55.63 in 2009-10.

During the meeting, chief housing and public protection officer Andy Lewis admitted there had been “issues with quality” and said the houses in Cllr Bithell’s ward were “unacceptable”.

The executive report was to update members on the progress of the work of housing services consultants Pennington Choices Ltd.

Pennington Choices Ltd was appointed in March 2009 to take charge of the repairs division of council homes and the contract finishes on December 3. Lead member for housing, Cllr Mark Pritchard, said there had been a massive improvement following consultancy work.

“It’s been quite a journey and we are certainly not at the end of it yet,” he said. “But in the time, I think we have moved mountains and we will continue to improve.”

Among new working practices for housing repairs, house ‘MOTs’ are to be carried out.

This means officers will check the condition of housing stock rather than rely on tenants to report repairs.

Maintenance staff, meanwhile, have been given special training and ‘mobile working’ is to be carried out. And workers have been responding more quickly to deal with repairs, urgent repairs being completed within an average of 3.3 days compared with 4.2 days in 2009-10.

Cllr Alun Jenkins added his support to all the work carried out and said: “I think we have made huge progress and the changes have been as a result of Pennington’s, who have worked with us since March 2009.

“There are places where improvements are still needed and I’m sure we will continue to tackle them.”

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