Councillors in Swindon say they intend to prioritise getting hundreds of empty homes back into use.

Estimates suggest the Wiltshire town has around 500 homes that have not been lived in for six months or more and local politicians from across the spectrum have now called for action to recover vacant properties via the use of compulsory purchase powers and empty dwelling management orders.

Conservative councillor Roger Smith told the Swindon Advertiser he felt there had been “real shortcomings” in the way the council had dealt with empty private homes in the past.

He added that some properties had been left derelict for long periods of time and were acting as the focus for anti-social behaviour, crime and infestations of rodents.

“I think this council hasn’t done enough over the years about it,” the councillor added. “We haven’t given it the priority it needs. Empty homes cause a real problem for residents and we have let those people down.”

Labour councillor Paul Dixon agreed with Mr Smith: “We have as an objective of bringing 50 private homes back into use every year – but we have no way of monitoring that. This council has not brought any enforcement action in the last 40 years. We need to find the political willingness to make this a priority.”

In response, cabinet member for housing Cathy Martyn said the council’s housing department would be making greater efforts to address the issue of empty homes and intended to bring in “a robust monitoring system”.