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Stoke-on-Trent City Council taking steps to ensure council houses are comfortable, maintained and safe

Published: Tuesday, 6th December 2022

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is taking an important step to ensure its council houses are comfortable, maintained and safe for people to live in.

The city council wants to revise its Repairs and Maintenance Policy and the Void Management Policy which were originally approved in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

The streamlined policies will reflect the latest changes in national legislation, ensure services remain fit-for-purpose and meet the needs of residents.

Cabinet is set to approve plans for a consultation on the revised policies during a meeting on Tuesday 13 December. The consultation will run for six weeks from Monday 16 January to Monday 27 February.

The Repair and Maintenance Policy 2023 is designed to ensure that responsive repairs, maintenance and planned improvement works are delivered efficiently and effectively.

During the 2021/2022 financial year, Unitas – the city council’s wholly owned repairs and maintenance company – undertook 71,288 repairs at the authority’s 17,454 properties.

Proposed updates to the policy include:

• Emergency works to be responded to within 24-hours - this includes where tenants have no heating and no hot water, a blocked sink or faulty smoke or carbon monoxide alarm;

• Extreme emergency works to be responded to within two hours - this includes gas leaks, power failure, severe water leaks and major drainage problems;

• Routine repairs enhanced by an area-based approach – the council will take a geographical approach to routine repairs by proactively targeting areas / estates where there is high demand for repair services;

• Updated legislation including the Building Safety Act 2022 and Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (Amendment) Regulations 2022.

The Void Management Policy 2023 aims to ensure that a property is properly managed when it becomes vacant.

Proposed updates include:

• Expanding ‘lettable’ standards to include the provision of a Decent Homes standard bathroom or wet room and a working carbon monoxide detector in all required rooms where a combustion appliance is present;

• Clearly outlining the city council’s responsibility to comply with relevant legislation in respect of electrical and gas safety, legionella, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Councillor Carl Edwards, cabinet member for housing and environment, said: “We understand that it is really important to provide homes that are well-maintained and safe for residents to live in and, as the city’s biggest social landlord, we take that responsibility very seriously.

“While we are confident that our existing Repairs and Maintenance and Void Management policies are robust and in-line with best practice, the time has now come to refresh and update both policies to ensure they reflect and comply with current industry regulations.

“These policies follow our recent commitments – and clear vision – to drive up the standards of older people’s accommodation in the city, and to provide quality and a broad range of housing that meets the different needs of people across Stoke-on-Trent.”

Tenants, leaseholders and other partners will be invited to have their say on the consultation which will take the form of online questionnaires and dedicated focus groups, allowing open discussion on the areas that are important to our tenants in providing a decent home.

Feedback gathered from the consultation and the new policies will be submitted to Cabinet for formal consideration in June 2023.