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Concern raised over council house clearance policies

Created on 10/05/2019 @ 13:43
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Internal auditors say that records need to be kept on council house clearance work to avoid claims of stealing or corruption.

Powys County Council’s Audit Committee was told by Ian Halstead, assistant director of independent auditors, SWAP that the practice known as ‘voids clearances’ needs to keep records.

When council tenants move or die, the property needs to be emptied as quickly as possible so that new tenants can move in.

In some instances, this means that staff from the housing department or Heart of Wales Property Services need to move all furniture and belongings from the property.

This is kept at council store depots and can be given tenants who need furniture.

Mr Halstead gave the committee a progress report from work being done by the Internal Audit Group.

Mr Hallstead said: “We looked at the process and the costs.
“It was not particularly transparent or clear that they were covering all of their costs.

“They would take items from the properties and take them to a store to be used for other families, so it had great social value.

“But when they did that, they did not keep a list of what items were in there or where they went.

“It’s not a massive area, not much money involved.

“If there are any allegations of misuse and you don’t keep a record of where things are going you can’t defend yourself.

“So we have recommended certain controls to be put in place for that.”

Mr Halstead said there was confusion as to who did the work, PCC would commission HOWPS and it would be commissioned back to PCC.

He said that SWAP would check that the changes were being carried out.

Cllr Karen Laurie-Parry said: “I’ve heard on the grapevine that deceased persons' property is being disposed of inappropriately.”

Mr Halstead replied: “When we were commissioned the audit was around the process which was on the back of a letter complaining about the service.

“There’s been no evidence provided to the authority of any cases where someone has had property that’s gone missing.

“So that’s where we stand at the moment, we asked but nobody has come forward.”

Mr Halstead explained the process of how clearances are done: “Next of kin, family and friends would be informed and after that, the authority is in charge of that property.

“That process does not include selling it or disposing of it for personal gain. If no one comes forward it’s kept in storage for a time, but if there’s no paper trail we are unable to identify where items are.”

Chairman, Cllr John Morris, added: “The easiest way would be to clear a house and burn everything or put it in a landfill. What Powys officers are doing is a service, storing it until housing rang up and said a young family needs a couch or a table.

“It’s just a paper trail that we looked at and that will improve.”

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter



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