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Is the 'Powys Pound' paying off for council?

Created on 25/01/2019 @ 09:22
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Separate contracts which are supposed to help support Powys businesses could be costing Powys County Council money in lost revenue, it has been claimed.

The “Powys Pound” initiative was launched by Powys County Council (PCC) to encourage local companies to win their contracts.

But it could be costing PCC in revenue as houses and flats that may need some work done between tenancies can only have one company working on them at a time.

These revelations came at a meeting of the Health, Care and Housing Scrutiny Committee as they discussed changes on council house lettings policy.

When a council house becomes vacant – it is expected it will be ready for the next tenant in 17 days. The official term for an unoccupied property is voids.

Any work should be done by Heart of Wales Property Services (HOWPS) the joint venture between PCC and Kier plc that looks after the council’s housing stock in that 17 days.

Cllr Phil Pritchard said: “Simon (Inkson head of housing) you are the supreme optimist. From what I have seen of HOWPS, to be confident shortly that they will be working to 17 days, then it must be our staff that’s holding property up for weeks and weeks. I haven’t seen one ready in under a month in my ward for years.”

Cllr Pritchard said, as an example, that he would find that a vacant house in Welshpool would become unoccupied in June and by November there was still no sign of a new tenant.

He said: “A surveyor goes in, then an electrician will go in if needed and he could be there for a fortnight. After the electrician has finished, you’ll get the plumber in.

“You can’t have the plumber and electrician working in there at the same time, oh no, no, no! Then the same with the carpenter, and so on.

“That’s the system that’s being operated and it’s costing us a lot of money. It’s lost revenue, I don’t see any improvement with HOWPS and quite honestly I think someone should be looking at the break clauses in that contract as we’re having so many complaints – to see if we can get out of it.

“We were told that we would make savings but I have a gut feeling that we’re spending a lot more now than we were then.

Mr Inkson said: “Can I assure you we are making improvements in the way we are working with HOWPS to ensure that voids properties turnaround a lot quicker than they are.

“You spoke about delays, and that is related to the way we have set up our framework contracts.

“We don’t let our framework contracts go to the likes of Interserve or Carillions of this world who flood a property with labour and turn it around very quickly.

“But at a cost to local supply chain. Ours is to give the local supply chain a chance of securing that work, that’s a cost we have to bear as the consequence of those decisions.”

At the last PCC cabinet meeting portfolio holder for the economy, Martin Weale, stressed the need for local firms to be able to work on supplying bathrooms and kitchen on work for the housing department into the future.
Spending the Powys Pound in-county is a central plank of the Independent/Conservative vision for the county.

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