Cash shortage means building repairs will wait for years
A backlog of maintenance work on Barnsley Council buildings has grown so long that some jobs will be put on hold for at least five years under a plan senior councillors will be asked to adopt next week.
That is even though some of the work could technically put the authority in breach of health and safety legislation.
The council is proposing repairs and other work to its stock of buildings totalling around £1.5m in the 12 months ahead, but some of that will have to be syphoned off for its sports centres operated by Barnsley Premier Leisure, which need to be maintained under a lease agreement.
It leaves the council facing the prospect of a ‘worst first’ programme of work, tackling the most serious issues for immediate attention and prioritising the rest.
That means some will be deemed low grade, with a timespan of at least five years before they get attention.
A report to the council’s ruling Cabinet requests that a company called NPS Barnsley Ltd is used to collate a list of the council’s properties and to priorities the work needed and states: “Due to the scale of the Council’s maintenance backlog, this list always exceeds the resources available.”
However, some jobs will be flagged up from within the council, because they are regarded as urgent health and safety issues.
In the months ahead, it is likely NPS will prioritise: “Urgent works that will prevent immediate closure of premises and/or address an immediate high risk to the health and safety of occupants and/or remedy a serious breach of legislation.”
That means other repair jobs, needed to “prevent serious deterioration of the fabric or service and/or address a medium risk to the health and safety of occupants and/or remedy a less serious breach of legislation” will be put on the backburner for up to two years.
Maintenance issues which present a “low risk” to the health and safety of occupants or cause minor breaches of legislation could be left more than five years before being fixed, councillors will hear.
In total, the council has £1.466m available for maintenance of its buildings this year, but £390,000 of that has to go straight out to pay for work on the centres leased to Barnsley Premier Leisure, with most expected to go on external repairs such as roofing, as well as maintaining machinery.
Another £90,000 will be lost from the budget because it is needed to pay for things the council must do, such as legionella prevention work, leaving an increasingly small sum available.