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Empty council houses brought back into use as district faces 7,000 on waiting list

Mansfield District Council is expected to approve a £400,000 contract to help bring 40 empty council properties back into use.

The authority will approve the funds during a delegated decision on Friday (November 11) as it looks to increase rental income, reduce the number of outstanding repairs and help more people into its homes.

The authority says 40 properties require “major works” before they can be returned and re-let to residents.

There are also more than 2,500 outstanding responsive repairs across its wider council housing stock.

But documents reveal the current backlog means the council’s own departments do not have the capacity to complete the works alone and an external contractor will be needed.

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The contract will include electrical works and out-of-hours repairs and is expected to be awarded to PK Group Ltd, running from November 11 until March 31 next year.

Papers state that, by approving this contract, the authority hopes it will have some time to conduct part of the work in-house.

PK Group would be called upon “if there are insufficient resources” to conduct the work in-house, the papers add.

The £400,000 contract, if approved by the council’s head of housing Jill Finnesey on Friday, would be funded through the housing revenue account and capital budgets.

In a report, Craig Tinsley, the authority’s repairs and asset manager, said: “There are approximately 40 void properties at present, many of which require major works before they can be returned for re-letting.

“In addition, there are more than 2,500 responsive repairs logged and awaiting completion. Due to current workloads and backlog, there is currently not enough capacity to complete all of the work required in-house.

“There is an urgency to reduce the number of void properties currently held due to the loss of rental income and costs associated with the payment of council tax on these properties.

“There is also a need to reduce the number of repairs and maintenance works awaiting completion to a manageable level to ensure the council maintains a decent and safe standard of homes for our tenants.”

He added: “The award of this contract will ensure the council has sufficient resources to undertake repairs and maintenance works to void properties as required, as well as work through the existing backlog of repairs.

“The services of the contractor are called upon if there are insufficient resources to undertake the required works to void and tenanted properties, and urgent out-of-hours repairs when required.”

It comes as the authority looks to cut down a large waiting list for properties it owns across the district.

Its website says there are about 6,500 council homes across the wider district.

However, more than 7,000 people are currently on the waiting list to receive a home, with the authority’s own website saying  it’s now “extremely difficult” to get social housing in the area.

The council also revealed last week it expects rental fees on its properties to rise by about five per cent next year – about half the current inflation rate of 10.1 per cent.

Councils usually raise rents by inflation plus one per cent, but the Government has held a consultation on a lower rise to support tenants with the cost of living crisis.

The proposed five per cent increase next year could take the average weekly rental fee to £88.42 for social housing tenants, though the Government says this five per cent rise is a “ceiling”.

A Government spokesperson said last week: “We know families are worried about the months ahead, which is why we recently consulted on whether to set a lower cap on social housing rent increases next year.

“We have made it very clear that the limit is a ceiling. Social landlords are free to apply lower increases, or indeed to freeze or reduce rents if they wish to do so.”

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