Contractors concerned over council housing repairs in Milton Keynes

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Contractors all over MK claim they are being left out in the cold by the new multi-million pound company about to take over the repairs and maintenance of council homes.

From April 1, Mears Group plc will form a partnership with MK Council and be paid £75m over five years to look after the council stock of 11,289 houses.

Over the past couple of months, the company has been busy recruiting an army of sub-contractors to help with the task.

But already they have been accused of ‘subbie bashing’ by forcing prices down to levels described as “ridiculous”.

City subbies also claim Mears is shunning local firms in favour of shipping in cheaper labour from other areas of the country.

One company said: “Many of us small MK firms have served the council for years. We know every inch of the area, we do the job well and we’ve already squeezed our prices down to a minimum.

“Mears wanted us to drop our rates even further. We did this – only to be told they didn’t want us after all.”

The subbies claim the only way Mears could beat their prices would be to ferry in foreign labour or use less skilled crews from poorer parts of the UK.

“We all predict that quality and standards will fall. And it will be the tenants who suffer,” said one builder.

Mears, who recorded a £42m profit last year, will also carry out the massive regeneration programme on seven city estates over the next 15 years.

The council has set up a partnership with them in the form of a joint venture company called YourMK.

There are agreements in place within the partnership about service levels and quality as well as stiplations that Mears must use certain levels of locally-sourced labour.

Council leader Pete Marland said he was aware of concerns from sub contractors and said any who feel they have had a “bad deal” should get in touch.

“Problems in the building industry are sadly a nationwide issue,” he said.

“Mears have assured us they can deliver a good level of service at a good price. “We expect them to uphold the service level agreements the council has in place and we will be keeping an eye on the situation.”