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Transfer of council homes to trust paves the way for modernisation bonanza Firms track £220m Manchester housing

CONTRACTORS are set to cash in on a £220 million maintenance and modernisation programme for social housing stock in Greater Manchester.

The work follows the transfer of 17,000 homes by Tameside Council to an independent housing trust.

About £100 million worth of work will be let out to private contractors, spread out over 10 years, as part of an investment programme by the New Charter Housing Group trust.

The remaining work will go to the group's own in-house building arm set up using the council's direct labour organisation, said a New Charter spokesman.

'The transfer will provide a muchneeded cash boost to invest in the infrastructure of homes,' he said. 'The money will enable us to contract out a repair and maintenance programme of work which was identified in a stock condition survey.'

The transfer is expected to trigger a flood of similar switches by other councils.

It is also likely to spark an increase in multimillion-pound term maintenance contracts as councils look to ensure best value in line with the Local Authorities Act which comes into force in April.

The Tameside deal is the largest so far. But tenants in Birmingham, Sunderland and Walsall will vote next year on the transfer of 93,000, 39,000 and 30,000 homes respectively.

Tenants in Coventry are also set to vote next month on the transfer of more than 20,000 homes.

The cash injection is a result of the government's continuing social housing transfer programme, under which 350,000 council homes have been transferred to trusts and social landlords.

ALocal Government Association spokesman said the release of capital receipts would also see about £3.5 billion available for improvement work over the next three years.

He said: 'Access to capital receipts was not allowed under the Tories but with the change of government their release is coming through. In April 2000 the first big wave of money will kick in.'

The transfer of stock and the use of capital receipts is part of the government's commitment to reduce the £20 billion backlog of social housing repair work.