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Recently I noted the wide discrepancy in costs for different councils in London when it comes to replacing lifts in council flats.

When the Government announced another £2 billion to fund the building of new social housing in England the predictable response was that this money wasn’t enough.

Sir Steve Bullock, the Mayor of Lewisham, declared on behalf of London Councils:

“Today London has boroughs who are ready, willing and able to do more and a Mayor who is also committed to action, but we need the resources right now.”

But how much scrutiny is given to the billions spent by Councils each year on maintenance of their existing stock? If better value for money was found on this capital spending then there would be more funding available for new homes.

Here are some examples of the average costs of some major items of capital spending.

Barking and Dagenham

Kitchen replacements      £4,020 
Bathroom replacements  £3,018
Boiler replacement           £1,086
Full heating system          £2,599

Barnet

Kitchen replacements      £5,515
Bathroom replacements  £4,894
Boiler replacement          £2,115
Full heating system         £3,297

Brent

Kitchen replacements  £7,500
Bathroom replacements  None
Boiler replacement      £2,013
Full heating system      £6,000

Camden

Kitchen replacements      £2,979
Bathroom replacements  £1,429
Boiler replacement           £2,042
Full heating system           £3,646

Croydon

Kitchen replacements      £5,350
Bathroom replacements  £2,248
Boiler replacement           £2,152
Full heating system           £2,894

Ealing

Kitchen replacements      £6,100
Bathroom replacements  £3,600
Boiler replacement           £2,300
Full heating system           £3,500

Greenwich

Kitchen replacements       £4,150
Bathroom replacements  £2,800
Boiler replacement           £2,000
Full heating system          £3,600

Hackney

Kitchen replacements       £7,350
Bathroom replacements  £3,608
Boiler replacement           £4,173
Full heating system           N/A

Hammersmith and Fulham

Kitchen replacements        £3,987
Bathroom replacements   £2,315
Boiler replacement            £1,179
Full heating system            £3,610

Haringey

Kitchen replacements       £3,643
Bathroom replacements   £1,981
Boiler replacement           £3,046
Full heating system           £3,923

Harrow

Kitchen replacements      £4,736
Bathroom replacements  £2,263
Boiler replacement           £2,296
Full heating system           £3,778

Havering

Kitchen replacements       £4,647.
Bathroom replacements   £2,590
Boiler replacement            £1,779
Full heating system           £3,553

Hillingdon

Kitchen replacements       £1,293
Bathroom replacements  £2,146
Boiler replacement           £2,371
Full heating system           £3,514

Hounslow

Kitchen replacements       £5,318
Bathroom replacements  £3,438
Boiler replacement           £1,800
Full heating system           £2,990

Islington

Kitchen replacements       £4,600
Bathroom replacements   £2,700
Boiler replacement            £1,730
Full heating system           £3,140

Kensington and Chelsea

Kitchen replacements       £4,675
Bathroom replacements  £2,791
Boiler replacement           £2,082
Full heating system           £2,860

Kingston

Kitchen replacements        £2,771
Bathroom replacements   £1,166
Boiler replacement            £ 710
Full heating system            £2,769   

Lambeth

Kitchen replacements       £4,000
Bathroom replacements  £2,800
Boiler replacement           £3,000
Full heating system    NA

Lewisham

Kitchen replacements      £2,386
Bathroom replacements  £2,090
Boiler replacement          £1,902
Full heating system         £4,100

Newham

Kitchen replacements     £4,400
Bathroom replacements  £2,700
Boiler replacement          £2,456
Full heating system         £3,496

Redbridge

Kitchen replacements      £3,607
Bathroom replacements  £2,459
Boiler replacement          £2,069
Full heating system         £2,694

Southwark

Kitchen replacements        £3,035.78
Bathroom replacements   £2,235.78
Boiler replacement            £2,455.41
Full heating system            £4,465.38

Tower Hamlets

Kitchen replacements      £3,506
Bathroom replacements   £2,477
Boiler replacement           £2,069
Full heating system          Not recorded.

Waltham Forest

Kitchen replacements    £5,088  
Bathroom replacements   £7,485
Boiler replacement          £1,762
Full heating system           £3,048

Westminster

Kitchen replacements       £5,300
Bathroom replacements  £2,949
Boiler replacement           £1,670
Full heating system           Not recorded.

So why does a new kitchen cost £7,350 in a council flat in Hackney but £2,979 for one in Camden? Why does a new boiler for a council flat in Lambeth cost £3,000 but £710 in Kingston? Are the kitchens bigger in the Hackney council flats? Do the cheaper boilers in Kingston keep breaking down? Why does a new bathroom cost three times more in Waltham Forest than Tower Hamlets?

Perhaps the figures are not completely comparable. But I suspect these variations can not be entirely explained away. Millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, are being wasted.

In England the totals are significant. Councils spend £247 million a year on replacement kitchens for their housing stock, boilers £224 million, £164 million on bathrooms.

Councils that are paying well over the odds have got a nerve complaining about lack of funding to build new homes. If council leaders regard getting absorbed in the minutia of how much of our money they are spending then what credibility do they have in demanding “more resources right now”?

Yet there is also a thought for the Government to reflect upon amidst this thicket of costings: If the state makes for such an astonishing bad landlord, does it really make sense to spend £2 billion increasing the amount of municipal housing? At the moment state land banking and planning restrictions mean we do not have a proper housing market in this country. Would not freeing the supply and giving the market a chance to operate be a better policy?

30 comments for: Councils are failing to get value for money with their housing maintenance spending

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