Council struggles to spend £8 MILLION every THREE MONTHS on Milton Keynes housing upgrades

Council housing chiefs are struggling to spend £8 million every three months on bringing thousands of homes up to modern standards.

A whopping 34 per cent of Milton Keynes Council’s 11,500 properties are considered to be not up to the decent homes standard, and housing chiefs have set out to spend £165 million over five years to sort it out.

Cllr Nigel Long

Cllr Nigel Long

But a council meeting on Wednesday was told they have been struggling to spend the cash. The community and housing scrutiny committee was told that they spent £5million in the three months from April and £6million from June to September.
The national average for so called “non-decency” stands at 13 per cent, the committee was told, making the MK number nearly three times worse.

The Government considers a decent home to be in a good state of repair, and to have a kitchen less than 20 years old and a bathroom less than 30 years old. They must also have effective insulation and efficient heating.

Michael Kelleher, the council’s director of housing and regeneration, told the committee that both the council and its contractor, Mears, have had to “gear up” in order to meet targets.

He said: “You have my assurance that while I am here – and I’m sure whoever comes after me – to deliver this programme. This is what we are focused on.

“The first year is about Mears and the council gearing up.

“We have gone from one to 11 members of staff and I’m confident we will do it over the next five years.”

He admitted that there may be some homes that are “impossible to bring up to standard” and that would mean speaking to residents about that “somewhere down the line”.

The committee was also told that the council is missing its target to build 500 new council homes by 2022. Only 38 have been built so far but Mr Kelleher said there is “every indication that we will hit that target the way things stand.”

He said some initial options had been withdrawn from the planning process to make sure applications were on brownfield sites.

Cllr Martin Petchey (Lab, Stantonbury) suggested building homes on a vandalised garage block off Rowle Close in his ward. “I urge you to consider it. It would get rid of an eyesore,” he said.

Mr Kelleher said he would ask a colleague to review the site and to report back.

The top councillor for housing, Nigel Long (Lab, Bletchley West), in a press release said “I am delighted that we are modernising people’s homes, and that the amount of work being completed has speeded up as the year unfolded.”

He said this included replacing eight kitchens and six bathrooms every day, and 15 homes are having new windows every week. Roofing work has been completed in Galley Hill.