Chesterfield council homes to get a £15m boost

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AROUND £15m is set to be spent next year to improve council houses in Chesterfield.

Chesterfield Borough Council announced the record spending level – a 20 per cent increase on expenditure in the present financial year.

The new system means the council retains all the rental income from council tenants to invest back into its properties.

At present about one pound in five of this income is returned to the Government.

Cllr Jim McManus, executive member for housing at the council said: “This is great news for our tenants. Whilst we will have to use some of the extra rental income to pay off the new borrowing that we have had to take on to buy ourselves out of the old system, we will be able to make improvements to council homes much more quickly than under the previous system for the benefit of our tenants.

“Our target of all of our homes achieving the decent homes standard is now within reach.”

The council has also evealed plans to build up to 40 new council homes, which will be the largest new build programme for the authority in over 30 years.

In 2012/2013, the £15 million will be spent on replacing and improving heating systems, modernising kitchens and bathrooms and installing new roofs.

The council is also looking at modernising an existing, or possibly building a new, sheltered housing scheme for older tenants, converting more properties into houses or bungalows and carrying out environmental estate works at Barrow Hill.

However council tenants will see an increase in rents from April.

The average increase will be 8.83 per cent which in real terms amounts to £5.53 per week for the average council home.

The lowest change is an increase of £3.48 per week and the highest increase is £7.23 per week.

Cllr McManus added: “We are, as in all previous years, continuing to follow the Government’s guidelines for rent increases as there are penalties and pitfalls for going above or below the guidelines.

“Locally our rents are still well below the national average. For some tenants, the rent increase may mean that they are now entitled to Housing Benefit.

“For tenants who already receive Housing Benefit, the increase in rent will be automatically covered by an increase in Benefit.

“Because of the scale of the average rent increases, the council has, however, resolved that there should be no increase in service charges for the year, for example, for heating tickets, wardens’ services, Careline, garden assistance, community room hire and communal staircase cleaning.”

Tenants can use the benefits calculator on the council’s website (www.chesterfield.gov.uk) to work out if they might qualify for Housing Benefit or call 01246 345484 for advice.