Council’s huge homes bill

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WIGAN and Leigh Housing has spent almost £50m on improving and repairing council-owned homes over the last year.

Work includes new build homes, a bathroom upgrade programme including providing walk in showers to older persons’ housing and boiler replacement programme saving tenants significant money on fuel bills.

And on top of this WALH, which manages 22,500 properties on behalf of Wigan Council, spends more than £10m a year on unplanned tenant repairs and damage, such as dripping taps, broken windows and fencing repairs.

More than 2,200 vacant properties were also repaired in order to let to new tenants.

Figures released under Freedom of Information rules show that WALH’s bill for maintenance and repairs reached £10.9m in 2013/14, rising slightly from £10.5m in 2012/13. The smallest bill was in 2011/12, totalling £9.5m.

WALH also helps tenants to carry out their ideas to improve communities through a £250,000 Better Neighbourhoods Fund and tenants and residents decide how this is spent through gardening, allotment and environmental schemes.

Janice Barton, chief executive of WALH, said: “We are very proud of the homes and estates we manage and the partnership we have with tenants.

“Since we were established in 2003, the condition of homes and estates and tenant satisfaction has significantly improved.

“We work closely with tenants and encourage them to tell us if things have gone wrong and suggest where we can improve.”

Meanwhile, WALH receives more than 500,000 enquiries per year, of which, in 2013/14, 854 resulted in an official complaint, equating to less than 0.2 per cent.

Of those just over 400 were upheld and 96 per cent were resolved at the initial stage.

Ms Barton added: “Complaints form a very small part of the enquiries we receive from tenants.

“Complaints are viewed constructively and we revised the system last year to make it easier for tenants and to ensure staff were recording complaints. A tenant scrutiny panel also independently reviews our services and they have just been shortlisted for an award for the work they do. We also received over 140 recorded compliments last year.”