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Friday, August 05, 2016

Council tenants invited to give views on Housing budget proposals

West Lancashire Borough Council tenants are to be consulted on a range of proposed savings, efficiencies and increases in income in the housing budget totalling more than £6 million over the next 3 years.

The Council is taking action to address a budget gap in its housing business plan. The largest factor causing this has been the change in Government policy which mean rents are being reduced by 1% every year until 2020. Previously the government’s framework formula stated that rents would increase by inflation plus 1% per year, which means the Council faces a reduction in revenue from what it had been expecting.

To address this problem in the short term the Council took steps including making savings in its major housing refurbishment programme and actively managing staffing levels. The authority was also allowed to raise the rents in sheltered housing by 0.9 per cent, but it still faces a total budget shortfall of £7.95 million in its annual housing budgets over the next 3 years up to 2019/2020.

At the Council meeting on Wednesday 20 July Councillors approved a number of budgetary proposals for immediate implementation that do not have any significant service implications, and will save £825,000 in 2017/18, and a total of £3.453 million in the years up to 2020. These include the deletion of vacant posts that don’t have any direct impact on service delivery, and streamlining budgets within the Housing Service.

Councillors also agreed a package of proposals be put forward for consultation with tenants. These are:

  • Removal of the mains water replacement programme as there are no maintenance requirements at the current time
  • Removal of the specific programme to replace fencing and paving and replacing it with cyclical repairs from the overall revenue budget
  • Revising the Council’s Housing Disabled Adaptations policy to make better use of housing stock and provide for the needs of the disabled
  • Introduce a nominal charge for the gardening service of £5 per week for 26 weeks per year

This package totals £2.325 million savings in 2017/18, and a combined £6.155 million for the years up to 2019/2020.

Councillor Jenny Patterson, portfolio holder for Housing and Landlord Services, said: “We have proposed measures we believe will minimise the effect on tenants of having to bridge this budget gap. We will invite tenants to give their views on these proposals and these will be taken into account during the decision making process later this year.

“The Council’s Housing Service will face further challenges to its income streams in years to come, including the potential impact of the Government’s sale of higher value property initiative. If approved, these measures will put us in a stronger position to cope with those difficulties.”

Tenants can give their views on the proposals for the Housing Revenue Budget by visiting your views. The consultation begins on Monday 25 July and ends on 4 September. Tenants who do not have access to the internet can request a printed copy of the proposals by calling 01695 585141. They can send their comments in writing to Housing Revenue Budget Consultation, Housing and Inclusion Services, 49-51 Westgate, Skelmersdale, WN8 8LP.

Tenants who are members of ‘Your Voice’, the consultation group for housing, will be sent a survey to give their views on the proposals.

In a separate consultation being run by the Council, residents and organisations across West Lancashire are being asked their views on proposals to save more than £750,000 in the authority’s General Revenue Account budget.

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