Wrexham Council needs £120 million to meet housing standard


Owen Evans

WREXHAM Council needs to borrow almost £120 million to get its housing stock up to scratch, according to a report.

The local authority has indicated it will need to borrow £118 million to meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) – a Welsh Government scheme which requires all social landlords to improve housing stock to an acceptable level by 2020.

The figure represents a 25.8 per cent share of all money being requested by the 11 councils with council housing stock in Wales to meet WHQS.

The amount caused concern among councillors in Flintshire after they came to light at a committee meeting.

Greenfield councillor Rosetta Dolphin said she would be concerned about a possible future debt should Flintshire and Wrexham councils merge as recommended in the Williams Commission report.

“I’m quite concerned about Wrexham,” she said.

“I would like to know if we would be liable for part of that repayment if we were merged with them.”

Earlier this year, the Williams Commission recommended that neighbouring Wrexham and Flintshire should merge. The first steps towards legislating to allow councils to do so took place yesterday.

Clare Budden, Flintshire Council’s chief officer for community and enterprise, said: “If Wrexham and Flintshire amalgamated then the two HRA services would come together and the stock and borrowing would be taken together.”

Other councillors expressed their desire to ensure Flintshire’s effort to meet WHQS was done promptly to ensure that they were in the most secure position possible.

Holywell councillor Gareth Roberts said: “We’re pretty advanced with our WHQS.

“If we have that dreaded day come about [merger with Wrexham Council] then if we’re close to making that quality standard at least our houses are in order.”

Flintshire has indicated that it needs to borrow a total of £25 million for the same purpose – but in total, will spend £103m, including money it raises itself, to bring the properties up to scratch by 2020.

The discussions about how much each council needs to borrow are taking place after self-financing for council housing replaced a housing subsidy system.

The distribution of money for new builds was also discussed at the meeting.

Flintshire Council had initially stated that it needed £20 million for new build projects in the county.

But after a backlash from other local authorities who had not submitted any new build plans and so were not allocated money, a “compromise” looks likely.

The committee expressed its preference for an option put forward by the Welsh Government which would see all local authorities who put forward new build plans given 50 per cent of what they asked for, with the rest of the money being distributed fairly between all 11 housing authorities in Wales.

If this option is agreed by all local authorities, Flintshire Council will receive £14,328,108 while Wrexham – who did not submit a new build request – will get £3,766,746.

Flintshire Council recently announced plans to build 100 new council houses in the county.

Speaking about the £5 million reduction in funds for Flintshire, Cllr Dolphin said: “It is disappointing that we could have had £20 million.”

Ms Budden said: “If we can maximise our efficiencies in the Housing Revenue Account we can use that for new builds as well.”

Councillors felt that although they were losing out on some money, the option was the fairest on offer for all local authorities.

See full story in the Leader

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