Council chief blames ‘long term staff sickness’ for falling behind on health and safety inspection of privately owned Fenland houses

Cllr Will Sutton (far right) about and about during election time. He is seen with Steve Barclay MP,

Cllr Will Sutton (far right) about and about during election time. He is seen with Steve Barclay MP, David Broker, Grace Bellamy and Cyril Bellamy. PHOTO: Archant - Credit: Archant

Council chiefs admitted this week they have missed their target for safety and health checks on private homes.

Councillor Will Sutton, Fenland Council’s portfolio holder for housing, reveals the gloomy forecast in a report that blames staff illnesses for the failure.

“The drop in performance is due to long term staff sickness,” said Cllr Sutton. “We are looking at options to rectify this position.”

He added: “A profile of inspections is being developed to reach the target by the end of the financial year.”

Ironically Fenland Council has recently been forced to drop proposals for a selective licensing policy in seven wards in Wisbech which would have been seen landlords of private rented property forced to comply with new regulations.

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The council wanted to help phase out bad housing practices by bringing in five year licences for each house: checks would then be made on anti social behaviour and poor living standards. The plan was dropped after fierce opposition by many members of the Tory controlled authority.

Cllr Sutton said the cumulative target for 2016/17 (it ends on March 31) was for 200 private homes to have been inspected and where “positive actions are taken to address safety and cohesion issues”.

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However he says by the end of 2016 only 93 had been inspected and in December, the last month where figures are available, 11 were inspected.

The figures show the council is not even skimming the surface of checking up on the growing number of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs); in December just two such houses, both in Wisbech, were checked out.

However Cllr Sutton believes the council is performing better among the homeless- his report says that in December seven surveys were handed out at homeless interviews and “and seven were returned highlighting that customers were satisfied or very satisfied with the information and help they received”.

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