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Housing Newsletter - December 2022

Welcome to the December Better Homes, Better Lives newsletter

Welcome to the December Better Homes, Better Lives newsletter

This newsletter includes important information about how to keep your property free of damp and mould and how to report these problems when they occur.

We also have information about the latest high-tech innovations being deployed by Housing to improve the environment with new sewage treatment methods and bin stores that capture carbon as well as rubbish.

There is also a chance to win a free food hamper worth over £30 and a Huawei tablet in our December prize draw!

Remember, information about Wiltshire Council's cost-of-living support, including energy cost advice, housing advice and financial support, can be found at www.wiltshire.gov.uk/cost-of-living and these pages will be updated regularly.

Win a Christmas food hamper worth over £30 donated by Tescos and a new tablet in our monthly prize draw!

We're giving away a free food hamper, sponsored by Tesco, to our newsletter readers including a Huawei tablet, perfect for accessing your iHousing account. To enter, simply follow the link below and email us with your name and address before the closing date of Friday 9 December and you will be entered into the draw.

November hamper winners Susan and Sean were chuffed to bits when the Resident Engagement team delivered their Tesco food hamper.

Sean said. "Make sure you enter, it's a nice surprise and very helpful in the economy, every little helps!"

Better Homes

Protect your property from mould and condensation

Damp and condensation in a property can lead to mould forming on surfaces and damaging walls, ceilings and furniture. The most common cause of damp is from condensation forming due to a lack of ventilation but it can also be caused by water getting into the property. A regular look at your roof can check for any visible damage like missing tiles and if your guttering is blocked or overflowing, the Responsive Repairs team can arrange for it to be cleared before any problems escalate.

To help beat condensation, make sure that any extractor fans are switched on and trickle vents on windows are always open. Extractor fans are very energy efficient, costing less than £2 a year to run and are designed to be left running nonstop to ventilate the space. Your window trickle vents allow warm, moist air to leave the property and be replaced with cool, dry air. Keep them open and make sure to clean them regularly.

As soon as mould or damp appears at your property, you should contact Wiltshire Council Housing Repairs. Wiltshire Council Housing has advice on preventing and treating mould and damp in the property available on our website Council tenants - Maintenance and repairs.

When you find mould or damp in your property, or if your extractor fans and window vents are not working or broken, log a repair on the iHousing Portal https://ihousing.wiltshire.gov.uk/ (opens new window) or contact the Responsive Repairs team by phone on 0300 456 0117 - option 2. A repairs officer will make an appointment to attend and investigate the source of the problem and arrange for an appropriate solution.

Keep communal doors closed for your safety and security

We have had a number of incidents where communal doors in our blocks of flats are being wedged open.

This puts a great deal of strain on the door hinges and mechanisms and will cause long term damage to the door, the magnetic locks and the control mechanisms. While open, the doors are also more prone to damage by the rain and bad weather.

These doors are part of your building's safety. In the event of a fire, wedging them open could help a fire to spread to other parts of the property, increasing the risk to yourself and your neighbours.  This also puts your block at greater risk of a security breach as anyone will be able to access the stairwells, hallways and other areas inside.

Please remember that no communal doors should ever be wedged open or have the automatic closers or locks disabled. Damage done could also result in a recharge to residents involved for the cost of the repairs.

If you have any questions or if someone at your block is regularly leaving the doors wedged open, please do not hesitate to contact your Neighbourhood Officer via the iHousing Portal, by email to HSGMail@wiltshire.gov.uk (opens new window) or by phone on 0300 456 0117 - option 4.

Better Neighbourhoods

The sewage plant that's piloting a new treatment for phosphate removal

The sewage treatment plant at Avon Meadows in Middle Woodford which is run and maintained by Wiltshire Council Housing to serve our housing stock and other properties in the area has been replaced with a brand-new system. This provides the latest in sewage treatment technology including remote monitoring.

The treatment plant is manufactured by Klargester, part of the Kingspan group.  It can treat up to 10 cubic meters of sewage a day, which is roughly equivalent to 50 persons daily usage. In addition to the standard treatment plant, a new technology is being piloted here that will reduce the number of phosphates in the final effluent discharged, meaning an even greater environmental saving. To top it off, following the installation, the whole area has been seeded with a meadow mix to provide a mixture of grass and wildflowers, which will look great and be of real benefit for local insects and wildlife.

These are just some of the ways that Wiltshire Council Housing is working behind the scenes to improve our environmental footprint and ensure better services for our residents.

New bin storage improves looks and the environment

As part of the Friary Improvement Project, two new bin stores have been installed as a pilot project to improve the look of the estate where currently, the large waste bins are on the streets next to the blocks of flats.

These new storage units keep the bins tidy, prevent large items being dumped in them and help to prevent rubbish overflowing or falling out, all of which will help improve the area around the flats.

The bin stores also have "sedum" roof tops which will help to capture and remove carbon from the air, making yet another contribution towards our carbon neutral targets.

If successful we hope to roll these out to other areas of our housing stock.

Better Lives

Cooking up fun on a budget in Salisbury

Wiltshire Council housing tenants in Salisbury have been taking part in cookery classes organised by the Resident Engagement Team and run by The Pantry Partnership CIC, at St Michaels Community Centre, Bemerton Heath, aimed at giving those involved the skills and confidence to eat healthily and on a budget.

The Pantry Partnership is a social enterprise based in and around Salisbury who work with the local community, providing low cost, nutritious meals from surplus food that normally would go to waste and offering cooking workshops and food related activities that engage people around food and the benefits of low cost and healthy cooking.

Cllr Phil Alford, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Housing, said: "Supporting communities to live safely and healthily is a key priority in our business plan and with the current cost of living crisis, and the ever more important need to save money and budget effectively, we are delighted to team up with The Pantry Partnership to deliver these cookery courses to some of our Salisbury families.

"Our housing resident engagement officers are always looking to work with residents to provide opportunities to be involved in positive activities that promote skill development, as well helping them to adopt healthy behaviours while keeping costs down.

"We hope to be able to offer more of these courses in the future."

Siobhan, one of the course participants, said: "Thank you so much for such a great start to the cookery course. We love our aprons and knives!"

Anyone wishing to get more involved in the community, find volunteering opportunities or help the council improve the services that it offers can contact the Housing Resident Engagement team on 0300 456 0117 option 5 or email at Tenantparticipation@wiltshire.gov.uk (opens new window).

Warm spaces at Castle Meadow in Downton

December gets off to a great start on Tuesday mornings at our Castle Meadow sheltered scheme in Downton.

The Resident Engagement team were approached by community volunteers to see if the scheme would be willing to host a weekly warm space coffee morning in the communal lounge. With so much support from residents it was agreed that the sessions could start as soon as possible.

Residents joined local volunteer Stephanie who provided tea, fresh coffee, biscuits and toast. Resident Engagement officers Kate and Caz were delighted to join tenants for the first taster session which was a great success resulting in weekly sessions planned throughout December and beyond.

Tenant Gloria said, "This is just what is needed during the darker winter days."

The sessions are open to local residents who can find a warm welcome in the cosy communal lounge and catch up with their neighbours with a chance to meet more. All refreshments are free and provided by the volunteers through community fund raising.

An important update for Responsive Repairs

We have recently implemented a change to the way we book appointments for your Housing repairs where they are carried out by our in-house workforce. When we book an appointment:

  1. We will email you with the date and time of the appointment, asking you to confirm the appointment within five working days
  2. If we don't have your email address, we will write to you with the date and time of the appointment, asking you to confirm the appointment within five working days
  3. If we don't receive confirmation from you within the five working days after you have received the appointment notice, then the appointment will be cancelled and the repair order may be cancelled
  4. You will receive a text message reminder of your repair appointment the day before and again the morning of the appointment if we have a mobile phone number on file for you. You can make sure all your contact details are up to date using the iHousing Portal or by contacting your Neighbourhood Officer

Why are we doing this?

We are streamlining the process and using email as our primary contact method, to try and reduce the amount of missed appointments and make the process as easy as we can. Every missed appointment costs the council money and prevents us from delivering repairs to other council tenants as quickly as we would like.

All emails from us will have the subject line begin with 'Wiltshire Council Housing', so keep an eye out for all important information from us across all our services relating to your tenancy or property. Make sure you add us to your safe senders list to make sure emails don't end up in the junk email folder.

We need you to join our Housing Board

We are looking for a new Resident Member for the Housing Board. The Housing Board makes recommendations to senior officers about how to manage the Housing Revenue Account (this is the part of the council which manages council tenancies and leaseholders). It is made up of three residents, three councillors and three independent members.

You can earn £3,175 per year (less tax, National Insurance, impact on benefit entitlements) for helping to make the service better.

If you would like to know more about the role, you can join our virtual taster session to learn about what being on the Housing Board means.

We are holding the taster session on Wednesday 14 December 2022 at 5.30pm using Microsoft Teams - contact us at Tenantparticipation@wiltshire.gov.uk (opens new window)or call us on 0300 456 0117 (option 5) to let us know that you would like to attend and we'll send you the joining link and provide any help to use Microsoft Teams if you need it.

Tenant Talk

Following repairs or planned maintenance works at our properties, we will send out a satisfaction survey by email for residents to let us know how we have done.

Mrs Stanger contacted us to say thank you following recent repairs work at her property. She told us "Your repairs team have recently replaced my window in the bay and they were very polite, courteous and professional and tidy as were Chalk Valley Roofing company who sorted out the gable end problems. I contact for both myself and sometimes my neighbour and the care and courtesy that I receive is brilliant. I felt that I should pass on my compliments to yourself about your staff as they do such a fantastic job under some extremely difficult circumstances."

After our contractor carried out a repair at their property, Mrs Huxley told us; "Wessex Electrical very quickly identified the problem and fixed it promptly, safely and were very neat and tidy. It removed a lot of worry. I also appreciate greatly how quickly Wiltshire Council contacted them."

Our energy saving tip of the month: Getting the best out of your fridge and freezer

  • Make sure you don't have the temperature turned down too low. Refrigerators shouldn't be set any lower than 5ºC, while freezers should be -18ºC
  • Keep your fridge and freezer clean and defrost them regularly. The more ice your freezer has in it, the more energy it uses. If the ice around the inside is more than 1cm thick, you need to defrost it
  • Make sure your fridge-freezer has plenty of room around it for air to circulate and check the condenser coils for dust - this reduces their efficiency, so if they are dusty, turn the fridge-freezer off and give them a quick clean
  • Don't leave the door open when taking food out as the longer the door is open, the more cold air escapes and the harder it has to work to replace it
  • Try to keep it as full as possible, without overcrowding and remember that when putting food inside your fridge or freezer, allow it to cool down naturally first. The less work your fridge-freezer has to do, the less energy it will use.

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