Flash flooding over the summer prompted more than 350 emergency repairs – with council now chipping away at lockdown backlog

Camden Town Hall

Flash flooding in Camden in the summer saw the council’s repairs teams called out to deal with 377 emergencies.

It was the highest number of emergency call-outs in a week so far this year.

The floods saw damage in areas including Belsize Road, Boundary Road and Kingsgate Road.

After the end of lockdown, non-urgent repairs resumed and the team is now tackling a backlog.

Yesterday’s housing scrutiny committee was told the Town Hall received just under 4,000 calls about repairs in August.

The volume of inquiries from councillors pursuing case work also went up in September. This was “primarily stemming from the increase in repair volumes and lead-in times being longer for some trades and for non-essential repairs”, according to a report from the council’s head of property customer services and engagement.

The committee also heard about the progress of the voids improvement programme, set up before the pandemic, to speed up the turnaround in preparing empty homes so new families can move in. It also aims to shorten the time the council is losing rental income.

In September, the council had 596 “active” voids, which are homes it is getting ready to re-let, and 241 “held” voids – homes which not available for letting, such as empty homes awaiting redevelopment.

The number of homes sitting empty for more than nine months dropped from 212 in April to 148 in September.

About half of the voids lettings go to exiting council tenants who are moving to larger homes, the committee heard.

A new void is turned around in an average of between 100 to 150 days, though one has been made ready in just 35 days in the past.

The backlog means some are taking 250 days to get ready.

Head of housing management Mary McGowan said: “Part of the issue is we’re doing a lot in these voids – we’re changing kitchens, we’re changing bathrooms. So there’s a lot of work going on there.”

She said the council is testing whether to do work after residents move in to help speed up the process – such as designing kitchens around their appliances and offering them a choice of colours.

“We are looking at all the options we have to try to make the process work more quickly, so we go into a contract with the resident basically and say, ‘This is what we’ll do for you if you move in earlier,’” she explained.

Virtual viewings are proving popular and helping to speed up turnaround times, she said.

“People are able to look at a number of voids very easily from their own home so they don’t have to take time off work, we’re shifting things in different parts of the process.”

The cabinet member for better homes, Meric Apak, said: “I have a commitment to bring the end time of a void by half.”

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