Who’ll put house in order?

A street on the Parson Cross estate, managed by Sheffield Homes
A street on the Parson Cross estate, managed by Sheffield Homes
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JOBS will be lost but management will cost less if council housing is taken back in-house, says Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore.

Tenants will be balloted early next year on two options for the city’s 42,000 council properties to decide what will happen when arms-length management company Sheffield Homes’ contract expires in 2014.

The company, established in 2004, receives an annual fee from the council for managing properties.

Coun Dore said: “There will be job losses if management is taken back in-house - there would no longer be a need for two management structures and jobs in human resources and IT would go. But there should not be any reduction in frontline staff.

“Our preferred option is for management to be back under council control because it is more efficient.”

She said that although Sheffield Homes has a three-star ‘excellent’ government rating, improvements can be made in areas such as giving tenants a greater say. She said re-letting could be speedier, to reduce loss of rent from houses sitting empty. Now £2.4m of rent a year is lost through vacant homes and arrears.

She said there were three big issues for tenants: “The first is repairs, then tenancy management dealing with issues such as neighbourhood nuisance and then ensuring properties are fairly allocated,” she said.

The 800 Sheffield Homes staff would be transferred to the council with terms and conditions protected.

But one worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Sheffield Homes is the only organisation to achieve three stars in the whole of the UK.

“Where the financial climate has forced many organisations into difficulty, Sheffield Homes has avoided compulsory redundancies and performance has continued to improve.

“Staff have been told we are not to express an opinion to tenants and must direct all queries to a council helpline.

“Our chief executive, Peter Morton, has said he does not want us to be involved in the politics of arguing a case for us to continue as an organisation.”

Mr Morton declined to comment.