Councillors call for review of council housing maintenance in Welwyn Hatfield

PUBLISHED: 06:58 14 January 2020

Councillors at the full council meeting this January. Picture: WHBC

Councillors at the full council meeting this January. Picture: WHBC

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Maintenance of the council’s housing stock across Welwyn Hatfield is to be reviewed, after councillors raised concerns.

At a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, January 7, borough councillors pointed to a catalogue of housing complaints and issues.

One highlighted a resident who had "a tree" growing through the wall of their council home.

Another pointed to a resident who was told to fill a crack in a wall with polyfilla - even though it stretched from the inside to the outside.

And then there was reported to be a damp problem - that was only recognised as a major issue when the resident took the floorboards up to investigate.

A majority of councillors at the meeting backed a motion expressing concern at the number of complaints about council house maintenance.

And they asked the executive member for housing and community Cllr Nick Pace, Conservative, to draw-up plans to identify areas of concern and to address them.

However after the meeting Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council strongly refuted the "misleading impression" given by some of the comments in the debate.

Cllr Pace said: "We strongly refute the misleading impression given by these comments and I invite those councillors to meet with us so we can correct their understanding of the facts."

In presenting the motion to the meeting of the council, Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Zukowskyj highlighted the importance of maintaining the council's assets.

"If we are not monitoring things properly, then things will start to decay," he said.

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"These are our most significant assets as a council and we have to make sure they are maintained properly."

Cllr Pace had agreed that it was of the utmost importance that council homes should be maintained to the highest possible standards.

He reported that of the 24,301 responsive repairs carried out last year (2018/19), there had been just 93 complaints - a rate of 0.38 per cent.

And he said overall satisfaction with the repairs was 92.6 per cent in the last quarter.

He also highlighted the planned works undertaken to maintain the 9000 properties managed by the council.

"The most effective way to manage our housing stock is to ensure there is a comprehensive planned maintenance programme in place," he said.

"This helps to reduce the number of responsive repairs needed and keeps our asset to the best possible condition.

"£11m is invested in this stock annually providing for improvements to properties when they are empty and major works programmes."

But leader of the Labour group Cllr Kieran Thorpe - who said he absolutely supported the motion - said concerns could not be batted away with statistics.

He said much of the council's housing stock was old and in need of replacement and he pointed to "limitation of resources".

And - after pointing to "austerity for over a decade" - he said it needed to be looked at. But he stressed he did not ascribe any blame to staff or councillors.

The Liberal Democrat motion was backed by a majority of councillors, with 25 voting for, 22 against and one abstention.

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