Headlines: March 18th, 2010

The Government’s Decent Homes Programme is being criticised by a group of MPs who say huge amounts of money have been spent without there being enough information on the impact of the scheme. The Public Accounts Committee says initial estimates of the cost failed to take account of the cost to local councils and landlords.

The MPs have been investigating the effectiveness of the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Homes and Communities Agency in overseeing the Programme.

More than a million homes have been improved under the initiative since 2001 and the report says the living standards of vulnerable households have benefited greatly from the installation of new kitchens, bathrooms and heating systems. The MPs also point to wider benefits, including more tenant involvement in decisions and the creation of jobs in deprived areas. But the committee points to a generally weak approach to financial control and project management and says the DCLG still has no reliable statistics on the number of homes made decent or not. Their report calls for the Department to get a grip on the Programme and introduce improvements in almost every aspect of its management.

The Committee chairman, the Conservative MP, Edward Leigh, said the DCLG’s initial estimate that the scheme would cost the social housing sector 19 billion pounds was unreliable. “The Department had failed to take into account key factors such as the cost of the Programme not only to local authorities but also to Social Registered Landlords,” he added.