Thousands of council tenants will have to wait until after the winter for repairs to be done to their homes.

Brighton and Hove City Council has instructed contractors only to carry out essential work on its 12,315 homes until the start of the new financial year in April.

Tradesmen working for maintenance contractors Mears and Kier said the order had come because the council's running repairs budget had almost run out, with six months of the year to go.

The council yesterday confirmed non-urgent repair work had been suspended but insisted it had not run out of money.

It told The Argus it was unable to produce any figures yesterday.

The work suspension will leave thousands of tenants, including the elderly, waiting through the winter for problems to be fixed.

Among them will be retired telecom engineer Laurence Pumphrey, 86, who said he would be effectively housebound at his home in Craven Road, Brighton, because the council had refused to install a hand-rail on the steps outside.

A council spokesman yesterday said it would continue its programme of Decent Homes improvement.

He said: "We have not run out of money for council house repairs. All our emergency, urgent and essential work is being carried out as normal."

He added that non-urgent repairs would be programmed into a planned maintenance programme which would be more cost effective.