Anger over council’s DIY deal with B&Q

UNHAPPY ... Kathleen and Walter Metcalfe have sparked a review over a DIY scheme.
UNHAPPY ... Kathleen and Walter Metcalfe have sparked a review over a DIY scheme.

A COUNCIL DIY homes scheme is under review after a complaint that it is hurting small businesses.

Housing chiefs in South Tyneside are examining their exclusive tie-in with B&Q, which prevents tenants shopping elsewhere.

The scheme gives people up to £200 to spend on sprucing up their properties after repair work.

But the money – available on the B&Q Decorating Card -– can only be used at the DIY giant.

The deal has been criticised by at least one independent retailer, who claims his firm is at a disadvantage.

Walter Metcalfe, 74, who has run his family business, Metcalfe’s Home Decor in Westoe Road, South Shields, for 45 years, insisted it was “grossly unfair”.

He has made a number of complaints to South Tyneside Homes, which manages the council’s housing stock.

Mr Metcalfe says many tenants have told him they want to buy his products – but cannot under the terms of the scheme. But that may now change after council chiefs confirmed it was under review.

Mark Whittle, South Tyneside Homes’ director of investment, said: “This review will include discussions with local suppliers and consultation with tenants.

“Our decoration assistance scheme is for tenants moving into a property needing decoration or for tenants who have had Decent Homes improvement work carried out.

“We looked at a variety of options and our research indicated that the B&Q scheme was very accessible, offered a variety of products and ancillary services, proving to be good value for money.

“This meant we could save time and money in establishing the scheme for council tenants.”

South Tyneside Homes did not say how much the scheme was worth to B&Q, which has a store in South Shields.

Mr Metcalfe and his wife, Kathleen, 70, are now semi-retired from the business, established by his father, Anthony, in another premises soon after World War Two.

It is now run full-time by their son Ian, 27, and three part-time staff.

He said the scheme was open to all retailers until B&Q took over two years ago.

Of the review, he added: “I don’t criticise B&Q. My complaint is with South Tyneside Homes, who are allowing this unfair situation to be.

“There was a vouchers scheme, which allowed tenants to use them at their choice of retailer.

“This was a fair scheme allowing local traders a share of the funding. Its reintroduction would solve the problem.”

B&Q was unavailable for comment.