Mar 1 2013 By Rob Pattinson
WEST Lancs council is set to invest £15.5m on improving tenants' homes over the next 12 months, while blue recycling bins will be offered to all residents across the borough, it was revealed in this year's budget.
Council tax was also frozen for the fourth successive year at a meeting to decide on the council's budget for 2013/14 on Wednesday night.
The council homes investment scheme - the biggest 12-month project the authority has ever commissioned in its housing stock - will see 1,400 kitchens and 1,300 bathrooms replaced, and will bring improvements to more than half of the council's homes.
Some £945,000 will be set aside for a replacement doors and windows scheme while £877,000 will go towards improving the energy efficiency of heating systems for tenants. And £862,000 has been allocated for upgrading security doors on blocks of flats.
Those works are part of a £55m investment plan for council homes over five years.
There will also be a £4m "revival" scheme similar to the one started in Firbeck last year in an area of Skelmersdale yet to be identified.
Cllr Adrian Owens said: "This is excellent news for tenants and will help us achieve our goal of being a top-performing landlord by 2020.Our investment will also boost the economy by sustaining around 200 jobs in the coming year."
Meanwhile a total of £360,000 has been earmarked to develop a new blue recycling bin scheme across the borough.
Cllr David Westley, portfolio holder for finance, said the bins – which will be replace the current kerbside blue boxes – would be rolled out over the next two years.
Cllr Westley said: “The blue boxes have been successful but there are issues with insufficient capacity and they are susceptible to strong winds.
“Wheelie bins provide an increased capacity for residents. The plan is to roll out over the next two years but hopefully a bit quicker.”
Residents will be given the choice of receiving a new wheelie bin or retaining their current blue box.
The figure represents half of the estimated cost of the entire scheme – with estimates that 75% of the borough’s population will take up the option of a new bin.
There will be an initial pilot undertaking in each of the area’s four collection zones.
Cllr Westley said the funding for the remaining cost of the scheme would be decided at the council’s medium term budget review once the level of uptake had been ascertained.
But Cllr Liz Savage, Labour’s shadow portfolio holder for transformation and resources, criticised the decision to only allocate half the funding at this stage – saying the Labour group had costed proposals for a similar scheme at £680,000 paid over eight years, with allowances for an 80% take up rate.
She said: “They are committing the council to long term spending without showing where they will find the money.”
Other schemes announced at the meeting included a £100,000 project to address drainage issues at the Thomas Galvin playing fields, Abbey Lane, environmental projects including around £10,000 to create a new entrance feature at Burscough’s Richmond Park, and £24,000 for a project to improve the area around Skelmersdale war memorial.
Meanwhile a project to fund up to £1m of improvements to the council's commercial properties has been approved, with the aim of creating jobs by attracting new businesses to the area.
Council tax will be frozen in the borough for the fourth year in a row