Green light for changes to council-house management in Northumberland

Northumberland Gazette latest
Northumberland Gazette latest

The management of social housing in Northumberland is to be taken in-house by the county council once more, which will mean an extra £900,000 to invest in affordable homes each year.

Northumberland County Council’s cabinet, formerly policy board, approved the changes this morning, which will see management of council houses carried out within the council, rather than being provided by a separate company. Ninety-five per cent of tenants who took part in a recent consultation support the move.

As part of a review of a wide range of its services, the council has considered the best way of providing management for its housing in the future. It wants to make sure that it can invest in maintaining high-quality homes as well as being able to build new council houses for future generations.

Currently homes owned by Northumberland County Council are managed on its behalf by arms-length company Homes for Northumberland (HfN). A council study found that by providing what are classed as back-office and support services such as finance, ICT and HR from within the council, rather than through a separate company, at least £896,000 can be saved for reinvestment in housing each year.

In December 2014, the council agreed in principle to bringing housing management within the council – doing away with the additional cost and duplication of a separate company. From then to the end of March this year, the council consulted tenants on the proposal.

In total, 1,458 responses were received. The vast majority of those who responded – 95 per cent – agreed with the proposal that management of council homes should be carried out from within the council, rather than by a separate company.

Coun Allan Hepple, cabinet member responsible for housing at Northumberland County Council, said: “Through the changes agreed today, we aim to maintain and improve on our housing management arrangements, and also be able to invest in new council housing for future generations. The savings made will be invested in improving services and building new homes.

“The review has been all about continuing to providing excellent services for tenants while allowing reinvestment of costs that are duplicated through having a separate company to manage council housing. It was certainly not about any dissatisfaction with the work of HfN. The company has successfully delivered against the targets of the management agreement and has won a number of national and regional awards.

“We look forward to welcoming the Homes for Northumberland teams into the council and to working with them to continue to improve service delivery and customer satisfaction, while providing value for money for our customers.”

The cabinet also agreed that the name Homes for Northumberland will be retained by the council housing department – with tenants expected to see very little change in the services they receive on a day-to-day basis.

Changes will take place from September 1 this year, with all staff transferring to the council under TUPE arrangements.

There will be no change to customer services arrangements in the short-term, and tenants will still liaise with the same frontline teams as they do now. If you are a tenant you should continue to contact Homes for Northumberland, the council’s housing department, in the same ways as now.