Council announces millions more to improve council estates

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with a figure of £78m over three years

Council tenants in Wandsworth will benefit from a series of improvements to their homes and neighbourhoods worth more than £78 million over the next three years.

Councillors approved a new multi-million pound capital programme of enhancements and investment to the council's housing stock last night night (Thursday).

The programme, which will run to March 2010, has also been boosted by a series of additional works, which had not been previously announced, amounting to an extra £28 million.

The current forecasts show that between April 2007 and March 2010, around £40 million will be spent on major refurbishments like new roofs and windows.

In addition more than £9 million will be spent on heating repairs and upgrades, £3.5 million on new lifts, £2.6 million on CCTV and entrycall security systems, nearly £2 million on adaptations for the disabled and just over £8 million on improvements to sheltered housing for the elderly.

The total level of investment over the coming three years is likely to increase substantially as additional projects are added to the capital programme between now and April 2010.

And if the £28m spend in the current financial year, which runs to the end of March 2007, is added to the tally, the total investment in security, lighting, heating and environmental improvements on local housing estates reaches more than £106m over four years.

Tenenats and leaseholders could have benefited from even more investment in their homes and neighbourhoods over the next 12 months if the Government had not introduced a system that allows it to claw back negative subsidy from the borough totaling more than £11 million next year.

Ministers want all social housing rents to converge or "harmonise" by 2012, and so they set guidelines as to how much each borough should charge in rent so that they all converge by this deadline. According to the Government’s formula Wandsworth should be charging an average rent increase of £7.42 next year.

But because the council has decided to cap rents at an average of £6.32 – or £1.10 a week lower than the Government’s guidelines, the Treasury is able to claw back negative subsidy from the borough’s Housing Revenue Account.

Wandsworth's executive member for housing Cllr Martin D Johnson said: “We have unveiled a huge programme of improvements and investment in the borough’s council estates over the next three years.

“These improvements will make a huge difference to the daily lives tens of thousands of people. Their quality of life will be dramatically enhanced.

“They will benefit from major upgrades to lighting, heating and security around their homes. Many blocks will get brand new roofs, windows and lifts and there will be extensive environmental improvements to pavements, green spaces and road surfaces.

“We have always provided high quality housing in Wandsworth, which is why our residents voted so overwhelmingly in 2004 to keep the council as their landlord, rather than transfer their tenancies to a housing association or a PFI company.

"They are fully aware of how hard the housing department has worked over many years to provide clean, well-maintained and attractive places to live. We are determined to maintain that track record and this huge programme of works is proof of our commitment as a landlord to all our tenants and leaseholders.

“Unfortunately, the amount of investment could have been even higher next year if the Government had not introduced a set of Byzantine rules on harmonising all social rents by 2012. If ministers abandoned these unfair rules and returned the £11.3 million in negative subsidy that is being taken from us next year, then we could have spent that on more estate improvements or alternatively cut average weekly rents by around £19.”

January 24, 2007