A £138m home improvement programme by one of the region’s largest housing associations has transformed 24 bungalows in Croxdale.
The homes, in Windsor Court, have all received major improvements including new kitchens, bathrooms and rewiring as part of a major investment by County Durham Housing Group. Some homes have even had changes to their internal layout such as removing outdated pantries or creating wet rooms.
Work on the final few bungalows in Croxdale is now approaching completion, with external footpaths also being resurfaced in the area.
County Durham Housing Group’s 10-year improvement project will make homes cheaper to run and ensure high-quality affordable housing provision in scores of communities stretching from rural Weardale to the coast.
Windsor Court resident Betty Brodie said: “The old kitchen was quite cramped, but this is brilliant. I’ve got more cupboard space and work surface. I’m over the moon, I love it. I can’t thank the workmen enough. I’m really looking forward to baking tomorrow now.”
Neighbour, Sandra Galloway, said: “When I had the knock on the door about the work I was going through a bit of a bad time, but everyone was so helpful. I can’t fault anyone who’s been involved.
“I love the kitchen and the wet room. It feels like a new start. Finishing off the decorating has given me a sense of purpose again.”
County Durham Housing Group Investment Programme Manager, Kim Tillotson, said: “The improvements we’ve been carrying out to these homes in Croxdale have been pretty major. But throughout the whole programme we’ve been keeping in close contact with tenants and doing all we can to minimise disruption.
“It’s hugely satisfying when we hear how happy our tenants are with the completed work. Hopefully they’ll be enjoying their made-over home for years to come.”
Work has already been completed on homes in Bearpark, Brandon, Ushaw Moor and Willington. The refurbishments are being carried out in partnership with specialist contractors ENGIE.
ENGIE was awarded the £138m contract by County Durham Housing Group following a competitive bidding process based on value for money and quality. The company, formerly known as Keepmoat Regeneration, has a long and successful track record of working in the area and extensive experience of delivering major projects, while minimising disturbance to residents.
A pilot scheme in County Durham is set to give more people the chance to benefit from the security and affordability of a housing association home.
One of the north east’s largest social landlords is launching a trial that could ultimately help dozens into stable, low cost homes across the region. County Durham Housing Group is piloting shared tenancies in its homes for the first time, providing an alternative to shared houses in the private rented sector.
The first homes are set to be offered through the scheme, the first of its type in County Durham, will be available this autumn. Both tenants will have equal standing in the tenancy.
The move will make it possible to share a typical two-bedroom flat, with an assured tenancy, with rent from under £37 per week – that’s £63 per week when water, electricity and council tax are included. Tenants will also benefit from a range of support including help with furniture, access to employability guidance or training and budgeting advice, plus access to a 24-hour emergency repairs service.
County Durham Housing Group Head of Housing Operations, Simon Bartlett, said: “We’ve all heard stories of people living in shared homes who have been forced to move with little or no notice. This pilot is intended to provide an alternative to potentially insecure private rent in County Durham.
“We think now is the right time to test shared tenancies because our research shows that there is a strong demand for affordable and secure shared homes in the area. If the pilot is successful we’ll look to expand it to other areas and in other types of property where we can.”
The pilot is not restricted to people who have already identified a prospective housemate. Applications will be accepted from pairs and individuals, with County Durham Housing Group looking to match suitable housemates where needed.
Registrations of interest in the pilot scheme are open now. More information is available from County Durham Housing Group on 0300 1311 999 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the north east’s largest housing associations is launching a single phone number for all enquiries.
From Tuesday, 11 September all callers to County Durham Housing Group and its landlords will be able to get in touch by phoning 0300 1311 999.
The group, which includes Dale & Valley Homes, Durham City Homes and East Durham Homes, is advising people to come through their new direct line whether it’s a query about rent, repairs or anything else to do with their home.
Existing numbers for each of the individual landlords will continue to divert to contact centres for six months while customers get used to the change.
County Durham Housing Group Head of Housing Operations, Simon Bartlett, said: “Bringing all three landlords into one group has allowed us to make a huge variety of efficiencies and offer a consistent service to all of our customers. Moving to a single phone number is the latest opportunity to make it easier for all of our residents, whether they live in Wheatley Hill or Wearhead.
“From now on there’ll be just one easy to remember phone number no matter what your query. Directing all enquiries through one phone number will help us manage calls more efficiently, and answer phones more quickly, for all of our customers.”
Calls to the new 0300 1311 999 telephone number will be charged at the same rate as standard landline calls.
Residents in County Durham are being urged to join their council’s fight against fraud with the launch of a new campaign.
Each year, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of pounds are taken unlawfully from Durham County Council through fraud. This includes council tax and tenancy fraud, as well as false claims for direct payments for social care and support, insurance and blue badges for disabled parking.
Now the council is encouraging anyone who knows of someone committing such fraud, to report it.
Paul Bradley, the council’s chief internal auditor and corporate fraud manager, said: “Fraud steals money away from vital frontline services.
“Fighting this crime helps us not only protect these services but ensure taxpayers' hard-earned money is not wasted. But we can’t do this alone, so we are asking anyone who is aware of it or has concerns to let us know.
“We investigate all reports we receive and will not hesitate to prosecute offenders to ensure we protect the public purse.”
Over the last three years the council has recovered or intercepted more than £3million pounds from fraudulent activity.
As well as investigating reports from the public, the council carries out regional and national data matching, as well as working closely with neighbouring local authorities, police and law enforcement agencies.
To report fraud:
Text: 07797 870 192, start your message with the word ‘fraud’
Call 03000 266 745
Help, advice and support is readily for anyone who believes that they may have been the victim of a loan shark
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have released an impactful new video, which aims to bring awareness to the issue of how parents are affected by loan sharks. The short dramatic video, shows the devastating effect of illegal money lending, and is part of a larger campaign to raise awareness of the rights of victims, and the help available to them.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is the government body behind Stop Loan Sharks. The team was set up in 2004 to investigate and prosecute illegal money lenders while protecting those who have borrowed money from a loan shark.
Research from 2017 Witness Statistics Report shows that 50% of victims supported by the IMLT were parents with an average of two children per family, and worryingly, 43% of victims went without food, fuel or missed rent or mortgage payments in order to repay the loan shark.
The impact of illegal money lending is immense, with 32% of victims asked said that they had considered committing suicide and 25% of those with suicidal thoughts said it was due to their involvement with a loan shark.
Tony Quigley, head of service for the Illegal Money Lending Team added; “There are many misconceptions surrounding illegal money lending, in particular the ‘sort’ of people targeted and exploited by loan sharks. We hope this new video will help to dispel some of those myths and encourage anyone affected by illegal money lending to get in touch, so we can help.
“We have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. We have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.
“The message is clear; you are not in trouble if you have borrowed cash or have been paying back a loan from an illegal money lender, the loan shark is. They are the people committing a crime, not you.”
To see the video and download the stop loan sharks free education resources, visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk
To report a loan shark call the 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222 or text a report to 078600 22116.