- Posted by: Canterbury Labour
- Category: Housing
A council has overspent by more than £1 million turning student flats into homes for desperate families – sparking accusations it has “made a dog’s breakfast” of the scheme.
In a deal worth £23 million, Canterbury City Council purchased 44 properties in the Parham Road complex in July 2018.But the refurbishment of the former student accommodation has been plagued by a number of stumbling blocks and left a bigger hole in council coffers than originally planned.
Documents reveal work to overhaul “unforeseen” leaky roofs and insufficient fire cladding has resulted in a predicted £1,084,000 overspend Despite the increased costs, the council is adamant it does not regret the costly purchase and says the lives of 61 families will be transformed as a result. But opposition leader Cllr Alan Baldock (Lab) has been left stunned by the seven-figure overspend.
“I’m honestly shocked and staggered,” he said. ““They paid top dollar for the properties anyway and an extra £1 million is just huge”
“The whole housing revenue account is a dog’s breakfast. This scheme was meant to be the jewel in the crown but this overspend is taking away refurbishment money from other properties in desperate need.
“It’s mismanagement – this is absolutely not good value for money. The cheapest way to get more social housing is to build your own, but instead they bought these properties, which worked out at above £200,000 per property. “The public is meant to trust this council with their money and they clearly can’t manage to keep this simple project on budget.” After purchasing the former student flats, the council uncovered design flaws in the roof construction and discovered the rafters were water-damaged.
The authority says building surveys were carried out prior to the acquisition, but water staining to the ceilings was not noted and close inspections were not conducted. During the investigation to try and ascertain where rainwater was entering the roof in Albert Mews, external cladding was removed and it was established there were no fire stops in the cladding.
It was therefore agreed additional work was required to protect the safety of future tenants. A report compiled by council officers says the problems would have been very difficult to spot even if more checks were made.
“It is important to note that an intrusive inspection of the cladding prior to acquisition would have been extremely unlikely,” it says.