£2m empty house cash still not spent

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FUNDING of £2 million to help bring more than 6,000 empty Sheffield homes back into use has spent six months sitting idle in a bank - and the council has still not decided how it should be used.

The council received the extra cash through the Government New Homes Bonus policy in April.

Ministers awarded the grants to councils to fund renovation of empty properties, some of which are semi-derelict and need investment before they can be lived in once again.

For each home brought back into use the council would qualify for further investment next year to spend on more housing projects.

There are an estimated 6,469 empty homes in Sheffield, 906 owned by the council or housing associations. The city has a housing waiting list of more than 90,000.

Coun Alison Brelsford, Lib Dem shadow cabinet member for housing, said: “It is a scandal that hundreds of Sheffielders are desperate to get on the housing ladder whilst nearly 6,500 local homes sit empty, with 906 of them social housing properties. By refusing to help even though resources are available, Labour councillors are showing just how inept they are at running the council.

“Instead of sitting in the Town Hall dithering they should be using the funds available to help ordinary Sheffielders.”

But the ruling Labour group has accused Lib Dems of ‘hypocrisy’ because only 13 empty homes were brought back into use last year when they were in power.

Coun Harry Harpham, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said: “We believe this record was shocking and is just one example of the three wasted Lib Dem years in the Town Hall.”

Coun Harpham said the council will spend the funding on bringing empty homes back into use - but has not yet decided how.

He said: “The money is being directed to developing numerous schemes including initiatives to bring empty homes back into use.”