CONCERNS have been raised after it was revealed that Wrexham Council is struggling to meet tough new housing standards.

Currently just 3,000 of the county borough’s 11,000 plus council houses meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, which requires all social landlords to bring homes up to scratch by December 2020.

Set by the Welsh Government, its aim is to ensure everyone in Wales can live in a good quality home and a safe and secure community.

However, councillors heard that Wrexham’s plans to meet the standard are currently behind target, falling 990 bathrooms short of the 2,400 it aimed to install during the last year.

The shortfall, which also saw the authority put in 646 less kitchens than planned, has partly been blamed on residents refusing to have work undertaken, with 231 people turning down the chance to have a new bathroom in that period.

But members also criticised the quality of work carried out by external contractors, highlighting problems with cupboard door handles falling off and wrongly fitted kitchen tiles.

Councillor Carrie Harper, who represents the Queensway ward of Caia Park – the largest housing estate in Wales, said: “The feedback I’m getting from tenants is that while they’re happy overall, they’re having some real quality issues with things like rubber seals coming off taps and handles coming off cupboards.”

Penycae councillor John Phillips said: “One woman came to me whose sink basin wasn’t sealed properly and water was dripping down from it.

“My concern on those that have been completed is whether they are thoroughly inspected, because from looking at some of them I don’t think they are.”

Lee Roberts, property investment lead for Wrexham Council, admitted that the programme had been ‘disruptive and challenging’ for residents and that he was disappointed with the figures.

At the same time, he highlighted that the authority was ahead of target on improving central heating, wiring and roofing, while it only missed its aim for external wall insulation by 21 properties.

He added that works would be completed on homes where tenants had refused to have work completed as soon as they became empty again.

Cllr Alun Jenkins raised fears though that the council could face a financial penalty unless the works are completed on time.

Mr Roberts said: “We’ve bent over backwards to remodel kitchens including taking out pantries and we have been going out to houses that have previously refused.

“I’ve previously suggested that we should probably enforce the changes, but we’ve had cases where elderly residents have point blank refused a kitchen.

“We had one tenant saying we were harassing them and that it was the fourth time we’d asked them.

“Provided we’ve got all the information and figures for them (Welsh Government) though, we shouldn’t get fined. If we’ve got gaps they will come to us and ask questions, but a refusal is what’s called an ‘acceptable fail’ to the Welsh Government.”

In total Wrexham Council has more than 11,300 social housing properties, the largest number of any authority in Wales outside Cardiff and Swansea.

In 2017/18 it invested £56.4m on the improvement work through a combination of council house rent income, borrowed money and income from the sale of council owned land and properties It also receives a major repairs allowance. This is a grant of £7.6m which the Welsh Government awards to local authorities to support them achieving the standard.

Councillors praised the progress made on improvements but asked that a report be brought to them in six months’ time with a projection of how many homes were likely to fall below it by the deadline.