THE green light has been given to buy new software to help council tenants at risk of spiralling into debt.
It comes after a report to Redditch Borough Council found the early implementation of the new system could prevent more than £100,000 in rent arrears accruing.
The borough has some 6,000 council houses but the fallout from coronavirus has seen a wave of tenants defaulting on rent payments due to redundancy and furloughing.
At the same time the cash-strapped authority is under pressure to make close to £1million in savings in housing services.
The new software costs £65,000 plus an annual rental fee of £55,000 – will free up council officer time to help tenants falling behind on their rent, a virtual meeting of Redditch full council heard on Monday, July 20.
Over time it will also help deliver the cost savings the council needs to make to help balance its books.
“Redundancy is a terrible thing and it has a massive impact on people’s lives,” said housing portfolio holder Coun Craig Warhurst (Con, Astwood Bank and Feckenham) after the meeting.
“Furloughing has been a good thing, but if you are on the breadline, the loss of that 20 per cent can be significant.”
He added: “With debt, if people bury their heads in the sand, it can be disastrous.
“Our aim is to step in early and help them, come up with solutions, give advice and support our tenants.
“We have a duty of care and this software will enable us to identify early on those in difficulty.”
Council Leader Matt Dormer (Con, West), said: “This is all about us getting ahead of the game so we can assist people before they get in a mess.
“This new system will be way and above what we have now and many other authorities are taking note of what we’re doing and that’s entirely down to the efforts of the housing team.”
Coun Bill Hartnett, (Church Hill) leader of the Labour group added: “This software will quickly pay for itself and as it is the workload on officers is almost unimaginable. This will enable us to cut through and get to the people who need help.”
The new system is expected to be in place by October.