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EXCLUSIVE: Angus tenants face fresh crisis over Covid-hit £30m council housing upgrade programme

There is uncertainty around Angus Council's £30m kitchen and bathroom replacement programme. Pic: Roddie Reid/DCT Media.
There is uncertainty around Angus Council's £30m kitchen and bathroom replacement programme. Pic: Roddie Reid/DCT Media.

Angus Council house tenants face fresh uncertainty over improvements to their homes after it emerged a £30 million kitchen and bathroom upgrade programme is in disarray.

We can reveal the main contractor has been dropped by the authority after the pandemic wreaked havoc with their ability to keep pace with the multi-million-pound scheme.

And it is the same firm that pulled out of a £10m contract to carry out repairs in thousands of homes.

Last week we told how MPS housing had backed out of the repair contract just 10 months into a three-year deal.

It was one of two firms involved in the eight-figure repair and maintenance programme.

The Airdrie-based company is understood to have triggered a break clause in the contract.

It prompted concern among tenants already facing a long wait for a ‘mountain of repairs’ to be tackled.

And the news sparked speculation over MPS’s role as main contractor for the bathroom and kitchen replacement programme.

Angus Council housing
Award-winning Angus Council housing at Academy Court in Forfar. Pic: Paul Reid.

Confirmation of contract ending

The firm has now confirmed its involvement in that ended in December.

A spokesman said: “MPS completed the kitchen and bathroom replacement contract before Christmas successfully.

“This was a two-year extension to a previous two-year contract.

“This was then brought to a close by the council at the end of December as it had been so badly impacted by Covid and our ability to recruit the numbers of trades staff required to deliver the desired run rate to satisfy the original contract.”

The company also explained its decision to exit the housing repairs contract.

“In terms of the housing repairs contract, MPS undertook a strategic review which looked at the local difficulties in attracting the right tradespeople, and the volatility of price and availability of materials,” the spokesman added.

“We came to the tough decision that the contract, as is, is unsustainable.

“This was an extremely difficult decision for MPS.

“However, to provide the service that residents deserve, we would always rather be honest about our ability to deliver than to carry on and let people down due to labour shortage and price increases.”

The upgrade programmes

The council is staying tight-lipped around the kitchen/bathroom replacement programme.

The authority was unable to provide an update on how many homes have received new kitchens or bathrooms under the planned programme.

A spokesperson said: “This is still an ongoing contractual matter.”

Councillors are due to be updated on the situation in February.

It is thought they are speaking to local contractors about the situation.

Timmergreens
Council housing in the Timmergreens area of Arbroath is being transformed. Pic: Paul Reid

A seven-year £24.9m Angus bathroom replacement programme got underway in 2019.

It will see new bathrooms fitted to around 6,500 homes – some 80% of the authority’s housing stock.

Arbroath, Carnoustie and Monifieth are scheduled to follow over the following two years.

The programme will then involve upgrades to homes in Forfar and Kirriemuir.

Kitchen replacements were a £6.2m investment in the council’s 2020-2025 capital plan.

Nearly £4m of improvements were completed up to 2020.

And the council’s 2021/22 budget included a £730k spend in that area.

Delays

In November, the council’s housing manager made a “be patient” plea to tenants over delays to heating upgrades.

Under £100,000 of a planned £1.2m spend to replace gas and electric heating systems was made by the end of September.

John Morrow said it was due to factors beyond the authority’s control, including soaring wholesale fuel prices.

The council also previously said it would increase the pace of repairs after they were hit by pandemic restrictions on tradespeople going into people’s homes.

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