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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Tenant groups to be asked for their views on top priorities for Housing

Tenant groups are to be asked for their views on what the top priorities should be for West Lancashire Borough Council’s Housing Services over the next few years.

The move is being made by the authority as it will have to save an estimated £11.3 million over the next four years due to changes in Government policy.

The Government has announced it is going to require Councils and Housing Associations to reduce rents by 1% each year for the next four years. This means that the investment the Council can make in its properties will need to reduce as a consequence. Additionally the Council will be forced to sell high value homes to pay for the Right to Buy being introduced for Housing Association tenants, Details on how this will work are awaited. It is also proposed to introduce a “pay to stay” scheme whereby any tenant with a household income over £30K will have to pay market rents, and details are awaited.

These changes, together with other welfare reduction measures such as freezing benefits, lowering the Benefit cap from £26K to £20K and restricting benefits to the over 21s, introduced, will have an impact on how much money the Council has to spend for the benefit of tenants.

Council staff are looking into these issues to get a clearer picture of how the authority’s housing budgets will be affected. Once they have done that they will meet with tenants to discuss how the effects can be managed to minimise impact. 

Items they will discuss include the Borough Council’s Capital Investment Programme in its housing stock. This has already seen new kitchens and bathrooms installed in a huge number of Council properties along with a host of other improvements.

The Beechtrees Revival Scheme is another project to be discussed with tenants to see if this should still be a priority scheme for the authority.

Councillor Jennifer Patterson, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “The Council has a business plan for housing based on information we have received over the last few years. Now Government policy has changed and that will affect housing budgets and services, as we are facing a reduction in revenue from what we had been expecting. “Tenants can play a vital role in helping us ensure we prioritise the schemes and services that meet the priorities of the tenants as much as we possibly can.”

The views of tenants will help shape next year’s housing budget, which will be set in February 2016, and the budgets for future years. If you are a Council Tenant and wish to be involved in the discussions on Council priorities please contact the Tenant Participation Team on 01695 585227 or email tenantparticipation@westlancs.gov.uk.

If tenants are having difficulties paying their rent they can contact the Council’s Rent and Money Advice Service on 01695 585230 or 585250, or email rentandmoneyadvice@westlancs.gov.uk.

For more information please visit money advice.

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