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Monday, April 22, 2024

Kirklees Council’s ambitious plan: £125m investment urgently needed for housing services

The council says the quality and condition of homes "falls short" of its aspirations.

A staggering amount of investment is required for Kirklees’ housing services, with around £125m needed by the end of the financial year, council analysis has shown.

This came to light in a report to Kirklees Council’s Cabinet, who recently approved a new five-year strategy to improve the quality of and services across the council’s 21,500 homes. The same analysis estimated that a further £225m needs to be invested in the homes over the next decade.

The major backlog is put down to several factors including the council’s previous approach to delivering improvements and delays due to the pandemic. Going forward, the local authority says it will place a “strong focus” on identifying and catching up on outstanding jobs as it begins to tackle the backlog of necessary investment.

The new plan comes at a fitting time, as the Regulator of Social Housing found that the local authority put tenants at risk of “serious detriment” after breaching health and safety requirements in its properties. An investigation found that 20,000 fire safety actions were overdue and 1,500 damp and mould repairs had not been carried out.

At the close of 2022/23, 6.5 percent of the council’s housing stock – 1,415 homes – were classed as “indecent”, falling short of the Home Standard set out by the Regulator. This is a statutory requirement concerned with the quality of housing, repairs and maintenance.

In the report, the council states: “The overall quality and condition of homes falls short of our aspirations.  However, the level of resources available to us for improving the quality of homes over the next few years will make it challenging for us to meet the markedly higher standards we would like to provide.”

Going forward, the plan will focus on on service improvements, safety, efficient repairs, decarbonisation, and smart asset management, with more than £200m set to be invested over the next five years from the council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA). The HRA ensures that rental income only gets spent on council housing.

The strategy sets out eight priorities which include ensuring a resident focus and improving their experience, providing safe homes and raising the standard of homes and neighbourhoods, and delivering a new approach to the maintenance of empty properties.

Cllr Moses Crook, Cabinet Member for Housing and Highways. Image: Kirklees Council

Cllr Moses Crook, Cabinet Member for Housing and Highways, said: “This new strategy is all about improving our services for tenants. We’re investing in homes to make them safer, more comfortable, and greener. Our strategy will ensure every tenant has a home that meets their needs today and in the future. It’s a big step towards a more effective and sustainable council housing service for Kirklees.”

Now the plan has been approved, the council will invite tenants and residents to engage with the proposal which will then be implemented. A dedicated project team will be created to oversee this work, and their main role will be to closely examine properties that aren’t performing well and figure out the best ways to improve them.

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