Committee allocates funding for fire safety and reviews progress on housing stock improvement works

 At today’s (Thursday 10 December) meeting of The Highland Council’s Housing and Property Committee members have approved the budget position for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Capital Programme Monitoring Report and agreed to the transfer of £1m from Revenue to Capital for ongoing fire safety works during this financial year and the next.

The Scottish Government have recently announced changes to the standards for fire and smoke detectors in all tenures of housing. Members at the meeting today were advised that, like other social landlords, the majority of works involve extending the existing smoke alarm provision to additional rooms and hallways and these works are being completed by a qualified electrician in a single visit.

In Highland these works have been allocated funding as part of the Council’s Housing Revenue budget but following discussion,  the Committee has agreed that the £1m budgeted for these works in 2020-21 is transferred to the capital programme and performance of this work will continue to be monitored as part of the capital monitoring process. Members also agreed that a further £1m is budgeted as part of the 2021-22 HRA Capital Programme.

Chair of the Committee, Cllr Ben Thompson said: “The provision of improved fire detection systems is a significant step forward in fire safety and will increase the safety of our communities, residents and firefighters. These systems have been proven to save lives and it is right that we continue to provide the resources to make these essential changes.”

During the committee members were also updated on the current capital improvement works underway and the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had. A 2021/22 HRA Capital Programme for housing stock improvements of £15.667m was approved by the Housing and Property Committee on 13 August 2020. The area programmes are in the process of being presented to local Members for final Area Committee approval.

Across the Highlands all capital works were stopped on site during the national lockdown period in Spring and early Summer 2020. From 20 July 2020, capital works re-started on several projects. This focused initially on external works and completing outstanding works rather than initiating new works. As of 31 August, all capital projects re-started on site and the Committee were advised today that all 2020- 21 projects have been progressing in accordance with Covid 19 safety guidelines.

Cllr Thompson wanted to thank tenants for their understanding.  He said: “The additional safety procedures have meant that contractors have had to limit the number of trades able to work in confined areas at the same time and have had to take additional time to ensure that surfaces are disinfected and specific appointments with tenants are adhered to. Our tenants continue to be very supportive of these new safety procedures so I would like to thank all our tenants for their patience and our staff and contractors will continue to work closely with them.”

The Committee also had the opportunity to review the progress of the new Council house build programme 2020-21. The programme is anticipated to deliver a minimum of 106 new completions within the current financial year plus 20 one-off individual purchases.

10 Dec 2020