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Roll call for huge housing scheme

CONTRACTS

A MIX of national and specialist contractors have made the shortlist for a £349 million housing programme in the West Midlands.

Sandwell Borough Council's massive home improvement scheme will bring 34,000 dwell-ings up to the Government's Decent Homes standard.

Among the traditional social housing specialists to make the list are Inspace, Bullock, Connaught, Lovell, Mears and Frank Haslam Milan.

Major firms also there include AWG's FM arm, Taylor Wood-row, Mansell and Wates.

Sma-ller firms are represented by the likes of interiors firm Ian Williams, Dodd Group, J&S Seddon and Thomas Vale.

The scale of the work, which covers upgrades to kitchens, bathrooms and heating systems, as well as external and structural improvements, means the contract has had to be split over three geographical areas.

As many as three firms could be appointed for each lot but a council source said: 'Hopefully it will be fewer than that.'

The total contract value of £349 million over five and a half years is dependent on the trans-fer of the council's housing stock to an Arms Length Management Organisation, known as Sand-well Homes. The transfer is due to be completed next month.

In order to secure the money from the Government the ALMO must achieve a two star rating from the Audit Commission before 2005.

The Decent Homes progra-mme aims to bring Britain's social housing up to a minimum standard by 2010.

Averaging £10,000 per home, the Sandwell programme has already received support from over two-thirds of the council's tenants.

A source at the council said bid documents are due out next week.Bids are due in September and the winners will be named in November.