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Garages could be demolished in future to make way for council houses

Powys County Council garages - some may become sites for car parking or new houses in the future (Pic: Elgan Hearn)

GARAGES could be flattened to make way for houses or extra car parking, a senior Powys council chief has said.

The idea was revealed at a meeting of Powys County Council’s Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee on Thursday, January 11 when councillors were given details of how much council rents for houses and garages are likely to go up from April.

Money from the rent increases will go into the council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and will be used to maintain the current housing stock while also going towards building more homes in the county.

Interim Head of Housing, Andy Thompson said: “Garages are a bit of a loss leader.

“Over time the income from garages goes down, they are 40-50 years old and were built when cars were much smaller – they are coming to the end of their natural life.

“They can’t be let in a condition that’s unsafe.

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“We are putting them out of use and then removing them when they become uneconomic to repair.”

He added that when this happens garages would be demolished to provide parking.

Mr Thompson said: “In some cases we’re going to be looking at building houses where those sites are suitable.”

He added that these would be “small scale” schemes of around four houses and it would be a “diminishing area of work” for the council.

The rise in garage rent will be from £13.73 a week to £14.65.

The Welsh Government has agreed local authorities across Wales can set a maximum rent rise of 6.7 per cent on council houses – which is what Powys are going for.

This is projected to see the HRA increase from £29.012 million to £31.086 million.

For the council’s 5123 council houses and 31 gypsy pitches this equates to a £6.80 weekly increase and will see the rent go from £101.44 to £108.24.

Mr Thompson explained that the council had discussed this proposal with the tenant scrutiny panel – and that the increase is needed due to cost increases and below inflation financial settlement from the Welsh Government.

Mr Thompson said: “It’s perhaps with a heavyish heart they (tenants panel) agreed to the 6.7 per cent, they did not want to see our ability to maintain and manage their homes diminished.”

He stressed that despite this hike the council rent when compared with other local authorities is still “one of the lowest” in Wales.

Plaid Cymru’s Cllr Gary Mitchell wanted to know how the department had decided on the increase.

He said: “It worries me that we’ve squeezed out the maximum.”

Mr Thompson explained that the decision was based on looking at the “costs increases” that are in the pipeline from April.

This includes floor covering and carpets for 450 properties which would cost £1000 – £2000 each and are needed to bring them back into use.

Mr Thompson said: “That’s a big cost with no extra grant to do that and is a requirement upon us.”

He added that “construction inflation” is higher than CPI (Consumer Price Index) and is a large cost to the council as well as paying for homeless people’s accommodation in Bed and Breakfast provision.

The draft rent increases will go to a Cabinet meeting for approval with comments from the committee.

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