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Storms and strikes blamed for housing repairs backlog

07 Jun 2024 3 minute read
Wrexham

Liam Randall Local Democracy Reporter

Storms and strike action have been blamed as a council struggles to address a massive backlog of more than 4,600 housing repairs.

The latest figures show a total of 4,634 requests from Wrexham Council tenants outstanding in the county borough.

Local authority officials said their ability to fix properties had been majorly hampered after workers staged eight weeks of industrial action between September and November 2023.

It led to more than 2,000 normal repairs not being carried out as only emergencies were attended to during this period.

Damage

Meanwhile, there were ten named storms during the last calendar year, which led to a large increase of 826 repair requests due to damage caused by extreme weather.

A report to senior councillors shows this has placed a “strain” on the council’s resources, leading to working practices being reviewed.

In the document, Cllr David A Bithell, lead member for housing, said: “There are contributory factors that have severely impacted on the ability to reduce the active and ongoing repairs list.

“It must be noted that the industrial action from September until November 2023 significantly affected the repairs service.

“There have been ten different named storms in 2023, which has led to a significant increase in repair requests from contract holders across Wrexham.

“The strong winds, heavy rain and adverse weather conditions associated with these storms have caused damage to properties, including roof leaks, fallen trees, broken windows and structural damage.”

He added: “The increased repair requests due to named storm damage has put a strain on the resources of the repairs service.

“The repairs team has been working tirelessly to address the repairs but the volume of requests has, at times, exceeded the capacity of the existing workforce.”

He said the problem had been added to by budget shortfalls, leading to job vacancies not being filled.

Priority

Cllr Bithell said priority was normally given to emergency repairs, which have a 24-hour response target.

These include issues such as loss of electricity, burst pipes, fires, flooding and loss of central heating during the winter.

During storms, the council aims to address structural damage or water entering properties as quickly as possible.

Cllr Bithell said officials were exploring new ways of working to address the repair backlog, including using tradespeople who normally only carry out improvements to empty homes.

He said: “This approach is in its infancy and commenced after the industrial action ended.

“This involves careful planning and monitoring of trade operatives who work in empty properties.

“The empty property and the target timescale have to be managed, as well as booking in work in an occupied property that is located in close proximity to the empty property. This eliminates downtime and driving across the county borough.

“The team are also continuing to review all current working practices, in a bid to enhance and improve efficiency and to increase the daily operational performance of the repairs service, which ultimately, impacts on contract holders.”

The information report has been shared with members of the council’s executive board and is included on the agenda for their next meeting on Tuesday (June 11, 2024).


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