ALMO's big money grant

A LANDLORD in Comet country has made vast improvements to its service, according to an independent watchdog, resulting in a �55m government grant for improvement works. The Audit Commission has given Stevenage Homes a two-star rating, on a scale of zero t

A LANDLORD in Comet country has made vast improvements to its service, according to an independent watchdog, resulting in a �55m government grant for improvement works.

The Audit Commission has given Stevenage Homes a two-star rating, on a scale of zero to three, following a recent inspection.

In September 2007, the arms length management organisation (ALMO) was given a poor, zero-star rating.

Mark Elsworth, the Audit Commission's lead housing inspector in the East, said: "I'm very impressed with the speed and range of improvements that Stevenage Homes and its tenants have worked so hard to bring about.

"Many services have been transformed since our last inspection."

A number of strengths cited include the fact that anti-social behaviour is handled well, home improvements and responsive repairs are carried out with residents' needs in mind, and estates and blocks of flats are clean and well cared for.

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However, Mr Elsworth said: "There are still some weaker areas." Those identified include the quality of service to leaseholders, and that some sheltered housing schemes do not meet modern standards and are not accessible to tenants who have disabilities.

Ted Jones, chairman of Stevenage Homes and a tenant, said: "The two-star rating is a remarkable achievement.

"Very few housing providers in the country have been able to improve their rating by so much in such a short space of time."

Stevenage Homes has been awarded �55m government funding, which was dependent on the ALMO achieving a two-star rating, to bring homes up to the Government's Decent Homes Standard.

Stevenage Borough Council will also be investing �35m in the project.

Work will include upgrades to electrical wiring, heating and insulation, and improvements to bathrooms and kitchens.

The project is expected to be completed by 2014.

To read the Audit Commission's inspection report in full, visit www.audit-commission.gov.uk/reports