A SCHEME to upgrade 18,000 council homes in Kirklees is halfway to completion.

About 9,000 council-owned houses have undergone improvements under the Government's Decent Homes scheme.

The Government has said that all council houses should be of a certain standard by the winter of 2006, with modern facilities, good insulation, efficient heating and proper weatherproofing.

The Decent Homes programme is being carried out by Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing - a non-profit company which manages properties for the council - and five building contractors, Lovell, Connaught, Kirklees Building Services, Enterprise and Keepmoat.

The scheme started in June, 2003.

Andy Selman, company secretary of KNH, said all 18,000 homes would be finished on time.

"The programme is still on target to finish by winter, 2006," he said. "Each week, £1.5m is being spent and over 140 homes are being brought up to a decent standard."

Between now and May, nine more schemes will get under way in Kirklees.

Keepmoat will carry out work at Rawthorpe and Ashenhurst; Kirklees Building Services will work on Botham Hall; Connaught will work at Longfield Estate in Dalton; Lovells will work on two sites in Heckmondwike; and Enterprise will start work in the Colne Valley and Huddersfield town centre.

Throughout the scheme, some tenants have complained about the standard of work on their homes.

But Mr Selman says these tenants were a minority: "The vast majority, 93%, of tenants are still satisfied with the work being carried out."

ALEX and Helen Duncan had a new kitchen, new windows, new central heating and a new bathroom put in their home in Sunnymead, Scissett.

They have lived in the house for 42 years. When they moved in it had an outside toilet!

The couple, both in their 70s, had the windows fitted last October, the bathroom put in last November and the kitchen and central heating installed in January.

They were consulted on kitchen design and were kept well informed.

Mr Duncan said: "The workmen were respectful of our home and very considerate. We are very happy with the improvements."

VICKI Shelmerdine, of The Ridgeways in Linthwaite, is one of the happy tenants.

Single mum Vicki, who has four children aged seven to 13, had a new kitchen and damp-proofing fitted by Enterprise last November.

She says the Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing liaison officer explained everything that would happen to the three-bedroomed home.

Vicki also got to meet the kitchen planner so that she could choose her new fittings.

She said: "The workmen were great, very friendly and helpful, as was my tenant liaison officer.

"I had a query on a Sunday and she didn't even mind me ringing up."

Before the work, the Shelmerdines spent little time in their gloomy kitchen.

Now, they eat and cook together in the kitchen regularly.

Vicki said: "The work has transformed our lifestyle - and the kitchen is the focal point of our lives."

SAM Brignano and his partner, Bernadette Rielly, live in a one-bedroomed council bungalow at Dewsbury Moor.

They had a new kitchen and central heating installed last December.

The couple had just moved in when the work began, but they were fully informed about what would happen.

Mr Brignano said: "The site manager always listened and found time to make sure everything was going OK.

"They have popped in since the work was completed to ask how everything is, which is nice.

"It was a job worth doing and we are really pleased with the result."