One in Three Council House Tenants Fear Impact of Housing Office Closures
One in three council house tenants believe they will be affected by plans to close down several housing offices.
Caerphilly Council said the shake-up would help “modernise and improve” housing services for its tenants.
The local authority is likely to push ahead with the closures despite the plan failing to win a majority of support from tenants during a recent consultation.
Offices in Gilfach, Lansbury Park, Graig y Rhacca and Ty Sign will close permanently, to be replaced with a “centralised” Caerphilly Homes housing service based at the council’s headquarters in Tredomen.
Three of those offices shut temporarily at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and are yet to reopen because of the council’s view that having several housing office branches around the county borough is an “out-of-date” model more suited to the 1980s.
There are no proposals to cut staff numbers if the shake-up goes ahead.
The council contacted more than 10,000 Caerphilly Homes households in August, seeking their views on the plan to shut down the four housing office branches.
They were also told the proposal meant housing officers would “spend more time out in your communities, bringing services to you” and hosting drop-in sessions at venues such as local libraries and community centres.
Of the 178 households to respond, the vast majority (74%) backed housing officers spending more time working in the community, as well as offering more home visits (68%).
But the plan to centralise Caerphilly Homes services at the council headquarters won only 48% of support.
At a meeting of the council’s Housing and Environment Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, Shayne Cook, the cabinet member for housing, said the move would “make it easier for contract holders to access services”.
Tenants would “still be able to” contact Caerphilly Homes as normal, and the organisation’s officers would carry out home visits where suitable, he added.
The council’s head of housing, Nick Taylor-Williams, said officers would “offer a more personal service”.
The move to shut down the housing office branches fits into Caerphilly County Borough Council’s wider corporate strategy to “reshape and rethink” public services, against a backdrop of looming financial constraints fuelled by inflation and cuts to local government settlements.
Streamlining council services and “using fewer buildings” both form part of the council’s plan to cope with estimated budget cuts of nearly £50 million over the next two years.
Committee member Adrian Hussey asked what would happen to the housing offices after they were closed down.
Mr Taylor-Williams said “not all the offices are under our control” but “there are a lot of decisions that have to be made” before any future plans are finalised.
However, the council is “already looking at Graig y Rhacca [housing office] being converted back into accommodation”, he added.
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