With all the excitement of building new council homes, Cambridge City Council is taking its eye off its responsibility for existing tenants in older housing, according to Cambridge Liberal Democrats.
Speaking after the Labour councillors' outright rejection of a set of amendments to next year’s housing budget, Lib Dem Housing spokesperson Cllr Katie Porrer expressed her fears that the city was in danger of moving towards a ’two tier housing service”.
The Liberal Democrats had highlighted the ongoing underspend in housing repairs which was diverted to build new homes, and that the council was simply unaware of the condition of 20% of its housing because they were not getting access. They also questioned the council’s purely reactive approach to concerns about damp, mould and condensation, noting the sharp increase in reports of this by tenants. And they pointed to the need to be quicker-off-the-mark to bid for government funding to insulate less energy efficient homes.
The Lib Dems had promoted measures to address each of these in a fully costed package which would, through better housekeeping, cost the self-funding council housing budget no more money. They wanted to introduce flexible working in the council’s maintenance team to avoid only offering visits when tenants were at work. They also proposed extra dedicated resources to address damp, mould and condensation more proactively. And they wanted to prepare the council for more effective bidding to government for better insulation in homes.
Cllr Porrer said:
“I fear that the council’s focus is mainly on building new council homes and not enough on the needs of tenants of existing council properties. We are saying it must do both things. Additional homes are obviously to be welcomed, but the council must not take the people who are already tenants for granted, many of whom who live in ageing, poorly insulated properties.
"It’s not good enough that Labour simply don’t know about the condition of a large proportion of the housing stock. It is not acceptable that there is no extra resource to deal with increasing complaints about damp and mould. These things are essential to ensure maintenance is up to date, tenants are safe, and that investment funding is obtained to better insulate existing homes. We don't want two-tier council housing. I am shocked that the Labour administration dismissed attempts to rectify the balance.”