Aiming to tackle fuel poverty will be a major part of the forthcoming year of West Lancashire Borough Council’s five-year plan to improve its housing for the benefit of tenants.
The Council agreed a budget of £13.91 million to spend on improving tenants’ homes in 2014/15 at its meeting on 26 February 2014.
This is the next phase of the Regenerating Homes Programme which is seeing a record £65 million invested in the Council’s housing stock over five years.
On top of this huge investment the Council has also announced it is preparing a second estate Revival project for part of Beechtrees, Digmoor.
Councillor Adrian Owens, portfolio holder for Housing (Finance), Regeneration and Estates, said: “We are making our biggest ever investment in our housing stock through the Regenerating Homes Programme because we want our tenants to have even better homes to live in. We have made great progress, and by March 2015 more than 4,000 of the Council’s 6,222 homes will have received some improvements, with more to follow in the coming years.
“Helping to tackle fuel poverty is very important and we are taking further measures that we hope will help reduce fuel bills for tenants. By making homes more energy efficient we will also be helping to protect the environment.”
During the next financial year the Council will invest £1.53 million on improving heating systems, with electric storage heaters being replaced in 266 homes in Skelmersdale, Parbold and Tarleton. The current heating systems in 64 homes in Birkrig and Alderley will also be improved.
Another £1.629 million will be spent on new energy efficient doors and windows in Council homes throughout the borough. About 520 homes will have heat meters installed to help tenants keep track of fuel bills. Improved insulation will be also be fitted in a number of properties and the authority hopes these measures will help tenants’ control their fuel bills.
The Council will continue to replace kitchens and bathrooms in tenants’ homes. There are plans for a further 908 properties to have new bathrooms installed over the next 12-month period and 705 to have new kitchens.
The authority has committed to install new lifts at Evenwood and Marlborough Court sheltered housing schemes, and have brought forward plans to upgrade a further 5 lifts at sheltered housing in Skelmersdale, Tarleton and Ormskirk.
This year’s schemes will build on successes of the last two years which have included:
Councillor Val Hopley, portfolio holder for Landlord Services, said: “The results of the energy efficiency and all other schemes have been excellent. I have spoken to many tenants who are very pleased with the work we have done. Our programme for this year will see the continuation of the improvements to our tenants’ homes.”
The £5.5 million Firbeck Revival project, which continues in the next financial year, has been such a success that the Council is in the early stages of preparing another Revival scheme for part of Beechtrees, Digmoor. The Council has earmarked up to £ 5.4M to deliver this. More details will be announced in the coming weeks, and a report is going to the Council’s Cabinet on 18 March 2014. Tenants will be informed of the scheme and those affected will be consulted along with the wider community.
Councillor Owens said: “The aim of the Firbeck Revival was to address some of the issues in the original new town design. The scheme is transforming the Firbeck estate and we are now looking at what we can do for Beechtrees.”
Money for all of these improvements has come through changes in the way council housing is financed which was adopted in 2012.
The Council has agreed an increase in rents of 4.31% in line with the government formula. The Council is required by law to work towards rents being equal to housing association rents. Individual rent increases may be higher or lower than the overall average depending on the specific circumstances of the property. Income from rent will help the council carry out the investment programme in its housing stock.
The Council has increased staffing to help tenants understand and manage the changes resulting from welfare reform.