Jobs cut at housing group

Photo Neil Cross'Progress Housing Group HQ, Sumner House, King Street, Leyland
Photo Neil Cross'Progress Housing Group HQ, Sumner House, King Street, Leyland
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A Leyland-based housing association has announced it is slashing 31 full time jobs as it looks to save £1million.

Bosses at Progress Housing Group, which owns and manages 11,000 homes, said operating conditions had become “much more difficult” since the summer budget.

As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, all housing associations are being forced to reduce the majority of their rents by one per cent a year for each of the next four years. It has also been announced housing benefit for social housing tenants will be restricted to the local housing allowance level - roughly equivalent to the cheapest 30 per cent of accommodation in the private rented sector.

Housing association bosses said the cuts would hit tenants with learning difficulties the hardest, but it has not been made clear whether Progress Housing’s supported living services are being axed or reduced.

Bernie Keenan, executive director of housing, community and support services for the Group, said: “We are one of the largest providers in the country of accommodation for people with learning disabilities.  The vast majority of our schemes are provided without any subsidy and are often more expensive than other schemes because of the special facilities and adaptations required. 

“Restricting benefit for the very vulnerable tenants of these schemes will make it very difficult to continue to meet the huge need which exists.

“The consequence of this will be that many people with a learning disability will be forced to continue living in long term hospital accommodation or inappropriate residential care settings.”

The housing association has lobbied the Government over some of the changes, but insists most tenants will not be directly affected.

Mr Keenan said: “The majority of the changes will not affect customers directly, however, there will be some changes to the way our services are delivered and where this is the case we have consulted direct with those customers affected.

“As a result of the service reviews we will be reducing the number of staff that we employ.  We expect this to be around 31 full time equivalent posts and we are hopeful that the majority of these will be through voluntary redundancy.”

Progress Housing Group, which has its head quarters in King Street, currently employs around 510 staff. Despite the cuts, Mr Keenan announced investment in housing stock was planned for the year ahead. He said: “Our priority remains ensuring that we provide excellent management and maintenance services for our existing customers and that we continue to provide new homes for local people who would otherwise have difficulty in accessing good quality accommodation. “We expect, for example, to spend more than £15m on new homes during the coming financial year.”

Leyland Central County Coun Matthew Tomlinson said he worried about vulnerable residents. He said: “Registered social landlords play a really important part in our communities, providing a good level of housing for people who chose to live in rented accomodation or require extra help.

“This Government is not a friend of social housing and is doing what it can to force people to use private landlords.”