Home repairs waiting game

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THE Decent Homes initiative was supposed to ensure those living in council homes were able to have houses of relatively high standard and properly maintained.

Councils were given money to help ensure investment in repairs and maintenance to bring those homes up to that level.

And for many years Sheffield Council spent that enthusiastically.

It created its own initiative called Decent Homes Plus, whereby tenants enjoyed even better standards of maintenance with work being carried out to the outside of their properties as well.

Today, with the worsening economic climate, we are now in part paying the price of that over-exuberance.

The council has identified that it anticipates a £30 million black hole in its repairs and maintenance budget and that backlog is a key risk to the quality of its housing stock.

Obviously the council could not have predicted the future when it was spending the money back in 2004, but coupled with a slowdown in income from Right to Buy, tenants today can expect to see a lengthening of time for repairs and maintenance to be carried out.

Many will probably start to question the wisdom of whether they would have been better off under Sheffield Homes when they were asked to vote.

That would be a harsh judgement given that Sheffield Homes would have inherited the same problem.

But for the next two years at least, they can expect a poorer response to their housing needs than they have been used to.

Paying the price of consultants

PAYING consultants is never going to be a popular move.

As the council faces cuts totalling £50m, figures which show Sheffield Council is paying wages to consultants of up to £800 a day will find few supporters.

But critics must remember that these specialists could never be afforded as full-time staff.

It’s unlikely there is the work to sustain them.

Nevertheless, circumstances arise when their expertise is required, particularly in sensitive fields such as special educational needs or social care services.

When that is the case, the specialists must be brought in.

Failure to do so is only likely to create problems as others struggle with the complexities of such fields.

In such cases, the specialist has to be paid the going rate so the job is done properly.