Row erupts over call to privatise failing Sheffield Council housing repairs service

Politicians from the three main parties in Sheffield butted heads over whether the council’s failing housing repairs service should be privatised.
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The repairs service is failing in a number of ways and still facing a backlog of more than 6,000 overdue repairs, yet the council is planning to cut it by £5 million in the coming budget.

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In the latest meeting of the finance sub-committee, councillor Joe Otten questioned why the council was spending millions of pounds to build new houses when it was unable to manage its current stock. He suggested outsourcing could be the answer.

Sheffield Town Hall, where councillors make decisions, overlooking the Peace Gardens in the city centre.Sheffield Town Hall, where councillors make decisions, overlooking the Peace Gardens in the city centre.
Sheffield Town Hall, where councillors make decisions, overlooking the Peace Gardens in the city centre.
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But this was dismissed by Coun Douglas Johnson, leader of the Green Party, who said outsourcing would happen “no time soon if it has anything to do with me”.

He added: “The last thing we need is another massive outsourcing.”

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrats and member of the committee, backed Coun Otten’s suggestion.

Talking about the debate after the meeting he said: “We had a big ideological argument which was about never outsourcing anything, no matter how bad the service is. We thought it was just Labour who were pig headed but unfortunately it’s now clear that the Greens are not going to shift either.

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“They admit the system is rubbish but they won’t change it. They are waiting to see if they can change it from within – something that has not changed in the last five or six years.

“Our view is we have not been able to change things, it’s not going to get any better. We are spending more and getting less.

“The entire system isn’t working. We should make a decision on what provides the best service for the people of Sheffield. I don’t want see more tenants turning up at council meetings saying they have been waiting years to get repairs fixed.”