Tenants blamed for delays in turn around

TENANTS demolishing walls have been blamed for a local authority's failure to cut waiting lists.

TENANTS demolishing walls have been blamed for a local authority's failure to cut waiting lists.

Babergh District Council has now pledged £190,000 to speed up repairs to damaged and worn out properties on top of the £2million already earmarked for maintenance.

Bosses said the extra money was needed because so many homes becoming vacant were damaged or in need of extensive refurbishment.

Out of 3,700 council houses across the district, 296 properties became vacant between April 2006 and April 2007 - adding to financial woes which put Babergh's housing budget £300,000 in the red last year.

Housing chiefs said most of their homes were rented out again within the 35-day target - and only a few had slipped to six weeks because of the extent of the work needed to repair them.

However, between April 2006 and 2007 the average council house turnaround was 47 days and up until September last year the average increased to 49 days, the council has revealed.

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Among the problems encountered was the demolition of structural walls and other unauthorised “improvements”, said a council spokesman.

He said a number of more elderly residents had also declined improvement offers while they were still resident - leading to a backlog of necessary work in certain properties, including double glazing and heating, once they were vacated.

The spokesman said: “Our target time for repair and re-let is 35 days. But Babergh recognises in the last year some cases were taking longer as a higher-than-average proportion of properties became vacant that needed major work to bring them up to standard - and that can take time.

“Babergh is currently carrying out a review to see where the service can be improved and is confident we will begin to see a substantial reduction in the turnaround time for empty properties when it is completed.”

According to the latest figures, there are 1,668 people on Babergh's common housing register and the council has 19 vacant homes, which have all been allocated.

Should tenants be forced to pay for the work? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk