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Views sought on Moray Council no access policy

By Sarah Rollo

MORAY Council is seeking views on a new policy for forced entry into local authority homes.

A draft No Access Policy is going out for consultation today, with feedback sought until March 24. Views will then go before the authority's communities committee in April and the policy is expected to take effect from May 1.

Over the next year, the council has a legal duty to install a higher standard of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in all its properties.

£2.2 million has been set aside for the works, which are required by the Scottish Government in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Moray Council's draft No Access Policy is going out for consultation.
Moray Council's draft No Access Policy is going out for consultation.

Details will be sent out in a letter to all council tenants. However, recent experience suggests compliance could be an issue, which leaves the council at risk of not meeting its statutory obligations.

A report to the authority's community committee this morning stated: "Given the level of no access cases that the council has been experiencing over a number of years, there is clearly a need for a comprehensive and robust escalation process which allows staff within the housing service to resolve these barriers to access in a structured way."

The policy explains how the council deals with no-access situations, using an escalation process to arrange appointments, gain entry and carry out the necessary work. It reinforces that support and assistance will be provided in special circumstances, and explains that when entry is repeatedly refused, and as a last resort, the council will use its legal right to force entry to the property, giving 24-hours notice in writing.

Forced entry will always be considered as a last resort and costs will be passed on to the tenants who fail to give access.

Councillor Gordon Cowie (Buckie) called for officers to ensure communication with tenants is clear.

He said: "Could we spell out how important it is to get entry into these houses? This could be a life or death scenario and I think we need a strongly-worded letter to say, 'look, we need in here to do this'."

Speaking after the meeting, committee chair, Cllr Louise Laing, said it was important to have established measures in place.

She said: “It’s vital that we can access properties to ensure we’re providing the safest homes for our residents and we meet our statutory obligations as a landlord.

"Aside from the safety element, we’re offering upgrades to many of our tenants and we want them to benefit from this investment.”

The policy and a survey are available here.

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