DIY paint packs will be given to new tenants instead of cash as part of a new policy to reduce the time council houses are empty.

East Lothian Council’s new Voids Management Policy was approved at a council cabinet meeting in Haddington on Tuesday.

It includes plans to replace its current policy of paying cash to new tenants to compensate for poorly decorated housing. Instead, a DIY decoration pack will be issued.

The move was widely backed in a recent survey of current tenants, after the council said it could prove more cost effective than the current scheme which saw it hand out about £142,000 in total in 2017/18.

The cash policy saw tenants paid between £60 to £75 for each room that fell below standard.

A three-bedroom property could come with as ‘moving-in bonus’ of as much as £465.

However, often that money would be cut because of outstanding debts owed by new tenants – leaving them unable to afford the work.

The council said: “For these reasons, we are proposing a change to a decoration pack scheme for new tenants. Tenants would be given a paint pack according to the size of their property.

“The paint pack would include all the decorating supplies needed eg paintbrushes, rollers, fillers etc which would be delivered to their property.

“Tenants would also be able to choose paint from a colour chart from a dedicated range.”

Cabinet members were told that the policy review had gone through a public consultation with more than 1,200 responses received.

The scheme will be introduced next April. Efforts to cut the number of council houses which are empty has seen voids reduced from 177 at March 2018 to 108 in March this year.

The council also reported an increase in the number of homes reoccupied within three months from 60.5 per cent to 76 per cent over the same period.

Councillors said they frequently heard concerns from residents who saw empty houses and did not understand why they were not filled.

They welcomed the reviewed policy and ongoing work to reduce the number of empty homes.

Councillor Jim Goodfellow, cabinet spokesperson for housing, said: “To have 1,200 responses to the consultation is nothing to be sneezed at –  it is quite a sizeable return.

“I am really pleased that we are starting to make a big dent in our voids and waits of less than three months for a new home are improving.

“We have a good policy in front of us.”

Fellow cabinet member Councillor Fiona O’Donnell also welcomed the reviewed policy adding: “It is going to mean people getting into a new home with their families sooner.”

The cabinet approved the policy unanimously.