Tenants of Falkirk Council flats will remain responsible for keeping communal areas clean after a report revealed the cost of providing the service would be close to £2m and would have to come from increased rents.
Members of Falkirk Council’s executive heard on Tuesday that a pilot looking at the problem had been inconclusive, so a survey had been done of all council tenants.
The survey asked tenants to consider three options: tenants in flats with communal areas paying for cleaning services; a service being funded by the council through the Housing Revenue Account; or tenants and residents remaining responsible for their own cleaning.
The consultation found that 82.3% of tenants surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that it was the tenants’ responsibility to clean their communal areas.
Eighty-two per cent of tenants surveyed also disagreed that a communal cleaning service should be funded from the Housing Revenue Account and not charged to individual tenants.
Councillor Gary Bouse, the council’s housing and communities spokesperson, said that the result of the survey was clear that tenants believe it is their responsibility to clean the close.
He added that it would also be very complicated to charge where there was both council and private ownership.
He said: “The cost – £1.7 million – will come from council tenants’ rents and people have said ‘no’ because not everybody lives in a flatted property.”
The report going to the executive says that cleaning costs an average of £200 per month per block with a communal area.
This works out at approximately £7 per week, for each property, and in total, such a scheme would cost more than £1,776,000 per year.
All expenditure on council-owned homes must come from the Housing Revenue Account, which is funded by rents. Any changes would have to be agreed by all tenants – including those who would not benefit.
The report does acknowledge that dirty communal areas in flats are often a concern to tenants.
Independent councillor Robert Spears said Grangemouth had a particular problem with a higher number of flats than other areas and the council had a duty to give them a better quality of life.
“I think we’re neglecting our responsibility here,” he said.
He praised Grangemouth’s Glitter team – which does litter picks – and other volunteers who help to keep the town tidy but said the council was letting down tenants in high density flatted accommodation.
Labour councillor Alan Nimmo, who originally put forward the motion asking the council to look at communal areas, said he was surprised at the cost but agreed the “tenants have spoken”.
“At least it has highlighted the problem the tenants are experiencing, particularly in the big blocks of flats” he said.
“But we need to make sure there are sufficient resources to ensure that we can enforce this,” he added.
Councillors did agree to introduce a communal cleaning service for new build developments, on the understanding that this would be part of the tenancy agreement and therefore covered by Universal Credit or Housing Benefit where necessary.
However, councillors were told that most new builds have front and back door so there will not be many communal areas that would need cleaning.