COUNCIL tenants have backed plans to set up a company to run their homes.

Ninety-nine per cent of people who took part in a survey for Easington District Council agreed to the creation of an Arms Length Management Organisation (Almo).

It would be responsible for the management, repair and maintenance of the authority's housing stock.

The company will be called East Durham Homes and will start operating separately from the council on April 1 next year.

Six months after it has been established, the company will be inspected by the Audit Commission.

If it is awarded a two-star rating, an extra £117.5m could be available from the Government over the next six years, for the repair and improvement of council homes.

This cash would be additional to money currently available to the council from the Government and would be used to ensure that all the authority's houses meet ministers' targets for decent homes by 2010.

Alan Caygill, district council housing and public services director, said: "The huge percentage of tenants who voted in favour of setting up the Almo confirms the council's agreed approach.

"We will now move forward at a fast pace to make sure East Durham Homes is established and fully operational by April 1, 2004."