The £2.8m investment Ipswich Borough Council is making in new temporary accommodation for people who are made homeless caught the headlines, writes Labour Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, David Ellesmere.
But, out of the public eye, the council spends even more than this every year improving and maintaining our existing council homes.
This year our programme comes to nearly £9m.
Caption: Council Leader, David Ellesmere, and Housing Portfolio Holder, Neil MacDonald outside Ipswich's new homeless unit.
This is for such things as replacing old kitchens and bathrooms, new boilers, improved insulation and providing adaptations for people with disabilities.
It is not funded by council tax but by the rents our tenants pay and grants such as from energy companies.
As this usually happens in individual houses it doesn’t tend to attract much public attention.
However, the recent improvements to Cumberland Towers are very noticeable!
This is the only tower block in the council’s ownership. The £1.8m improvements to the block had been planned for some time but, just before work was due to start, there was the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower.
We re-examined every detail of the scheme as a result of this tragedy especially the cladding we were planning to install. Happily, this is very different to that used on Grenfell Tower and is fire-retardant.
The main purpose of the cladding is not to look good, it is to improve insulation.
It has certainly done this. One resident told me she used to need four heaters on in her flat, now she only needs one.
The only aspect we did change was to install sprinklers in every flat.
The fire safety advice we have always received is that the compartmentalisation of flats is sufficient to keep residents safe.
This was borne out when we had a fire in a flat in November. Although severe, the fire was contained to the single flat and some neighbours didn’t even know it had happened!
However, we wanted to make extra sure that our residents are safe so decided it was important to install sprinklers. Despite promises to help, the Government refused to provide funding towards this.
Cumberland Towers now looks great. It is safer. It is saving residents money on their heating bills and reducing carbon emissions. The work provided jobs.
Altogether, a good investment by your Labour Council.