West Norfolk Council set to establish new housing firm

Views of King's Lynn

The view of Chapel Street with the Junction of Austin Street King's Lynn

The King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council Office is the building on the left, with the Lattice House Pub further down on the right. ENGANL00120130322090456
Views of King's Lynn The view of Chapel Street with the Junction of Austin Street King's Lynn The King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council Office is the building on the left, with the Lattice House Pub further down on the right. ENGANL00120130322090456

A new housing company to be set up by West Norfolk Council will allow more money to be invested in front-line services, officials have claimed.

Details of how the enterprise will be run are set to be finalised at a meeting of the authority’s cabinet next week.

Concerns have been raised about the profit-making nature of the company and how decisions will be taken in relation to its affairs.

But council chiefs say the structure will not only increase the amount of housing available, but also save public money by reducing the use of other forms of temporary accommodation.

Adrian Lawrence, cabinet member for housing, said: “The local housing company provides the council with an appropriate vehicle to hold affordable housing.

“A stock of affordable housing that we directly control will give us greater flexibility in the delivery of our statutory housing services.

“One key aspect of this new initiative is the provision of self-contained emergency accommodation for homeless households.

“Adding to the provision of this type of accommodation is going to help us avoid the use of inappropriate and expensive accommodation like bed and breakfast.”

The idea of setting up a new company was approved by the council two years ago, when the authority agreed to use around £760,000 to fund the project.

At the time, the money was set to be used to buy affordable homes on newly-developed lands, such as the NORA site in South Lynn.

However, a detailed business plan was only passed last month, during a closed session.

And Labour’s Jo Rust said she questioned the reasoning behind the establishment of the company, given its decision to transfer its old housing stock to Freebridge Community Housing 10 years ago.

She said she did not believe residents would be assuredby the report, which said cabinet members “may” want to retain decision-making powers over large investments of £100,000 or more.

She said: “I’m ill at ease with the decision making process behind it and the lack of transparency.”

But the report said the council would be the company’s sole shareholder and recommended decisions on exercising shareholder powers should go to the cabinet.

The authority says initial plans for the company cover around 20 properties but could be expanded if more investment is secured.