Sheffield Council has forecast a loss of £3.7 million in rental income from vacant properties this year due to overdue repairs.
It comes shortly after it was revealed that 5,922 council households were awaiting delayed fixes. One tenant waited 818 days (more than two years) for the municipality to fix the fire at his front door and another waited three hours just to reach the housing repair service by telephone.
In a financial report which revealed the loss of rental income, officers said: “[This] is largely due to the speed of repair and maintenance service, resulting in vacant properties.
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They added that the number of empty properties was significantly higher than assumed in the council’s business plan.
But despite the underperformance of the repair service, the council plan to cut it by £5m. Discussing the numbers at a housing committee meeting this week, councilor Penny Baker, vice-chairman, said: ‘We need to seriously look at investing to save because if these properties are not in rental condition, we can’t get the rent from them. It’s just going to go around in circles if we don’t do anything to prevent it from happening.
“It’s something we really need to achieve.”
Despite the underperformance, the council said it had to cut £5million from the repair service this year. Across the board, officials have said there is likely to be a potential budget gap of £68million for the 2023/24 financial year, several million more than this year.
Speaking about the savings the council needs to make across the authority at the housing committee meeting, Ryan Keyworth, chief financial officer, said: “There will be significant timing and deliverability risks associated with achieving these savings.
“It’s very difficult to take that much cost out of any organization. After 10 or more years of cash constraints at this authority, all the easy things, as far as there ever were, were done a long time ago. We have a job as an organization to bring our costs in line with our revenues.