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Housing standards improving

Boston Borough Council's latest performance report shows that action to improve standards of accommodation returned good results in the first quarter of the financial year - April to June.

The council has been running a project to crack down on rogue landlords, and housing standard improvements for the quarter were 42 against a target of 25 and the number of private empty properties brought back into use was 25 against a target of 20. The number of affordable homes delivered was on target at 61.

The council has received Government backing and additional and then renewed funding for its rogue landlords initiative. There have been some prosecutions of landlords letting privately-rented property in unsatisfactory and even dangerous conditions, but the main thrust has been to investigate cases where accommodation provided has been sub-standard and to prompt landlords into rectifying defects. Successes have seen landlords invest in their properties providing modern, comfortable and sanitary conditions for their tenants.

In a few cases the council has shown that, when all else fails, it has been prepared to take rogue landlords to court, especially where, when working with Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, there have been hazards presenting a risk of injury or even a risk to life.

The council also works closely with Lincolnshire Police, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and HMRC.

The performance report also showed that an initiative to make sure businesses are paying the correct business rates helped show a four per cent increase in the net yield - up from £19,588,420 in the same quarter last year to £20,320,426. The borough council collects business rates on behalf of itself, Lincolnshire County Council and the Government.

Visits to the council's tourism page on the website - - went up by 23 per cent and general unique page views increased by 24 per cent.

Fly-tipping incidents increased by 17 per cent, but this was due to better proactive, quicker and more regular visits to known hot spots and improved reporting. Fly-tipped rubbish consisted mainly of domestic, construction and commercial waste. There had been no significant increase in fly-tipped garden waste. There had been a sign up for paid garden waste collection of more than 80 per cent.

Nationally, tonnage of fly-tipped rubbish has risen by more than 26 per cent since 2012. But in Boston it has fallen by almost 33 per cent.

The innovative fly tipping clear-up campaign, known as Operation Fly Swat, launched four years, ago has seen quantities of dumped rubbish tumble.

The unique project, which operates in conjunction with HM Prison North Sea Camp and has now extended to cover parts of South Holland, has saved the public purse £240,000 over the past four years

So far £300,000 worth of fly-tip clearance has been achieved at a cost of £60,000.

The target for waste which was being reused, recycled or composted was up to 49.24 per cent. The target had been 48.16 per cent.  The actual for the same quarter last year had been 48. 5 per cent and the total for the previous year was 44.92 per cent.

The amount of non-recycled waste per household sent to the Energy From Waste plant (previously sent to landfill) was 126 kilograms. The actual total for the same quarter last year was 132kg.

Cllr Michael Brookes described the latest figures for people participating in the council's healthy walking programme and for swimmers at the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex as "excellent". Walkers went up from 2,423 in the same quarter last year to 2,449 this quarter. Swimmers increased from 41,727 to 42,720, smashing the 40,000 target.

The council has been generally much busier with the number of customers served at reception up by 17 per cent and phone calls up by four per cent. Response times were quicker - average waiting time for a phone call to be answered was 24.30 second against a target of 45 seconds. This was a huge improvement on the same period last year of 43.20 seconds and down on the average of the whole of last year of 36.25 seconds.

Despite a ten per cent increase in Freedom of Information requests the average time taken to respond was down to just seven days, against a target of 20.

Time taken to process benefit and council tax support claims was reduced or better than the target set.

Latest projection is for the council to underspend by £46,000, but that comes with a warning that the council still faces financial and operational challenges.