COUNCIL flats in York have been fitted with new aerials to prepare them for the switchover to digital TV.

Workmen for City of York Council have been installing the new aerials – known as Integrated Reception Systems – to enable council tenants who live in communal blocks to choose between digital satellite or digital terrestrial (Freeview), as well as receiving existing analogue TV.

The new systems have recently been introduced in the Nunnery Lane area of York.

The new system also gives tenants access to DAB/FM radio and the possibility of CCTV/Information systems.

The work is being carried out to prepare tenants for York’s switch-over to digital TV in 2011. The work is being funded by charging tenants 50p per week for maintenance of their community aerial, rather than 17p.

So far, 42 communal aerials have been installed and new faceplates and sockets have been fitted in 304 flats. Areas completed so far include Kingsway West, Foxwood, Leeman Road, Lindsey Avenue and areas around Cambridge Street.

The team is currently working in the Clementhorpe area.

A spokeswoman for the council said there were a further 148 aerials to put up and 1,546 more sockets to fit. She said the work had been spread out over two financial years with a budget figure of £189,000 for 2008/9 and £196,000 for 2009/10. But it is expected that the final cost will come in under budget, at about £350,000.

The work is scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.

But the scheme has not been without its detractors.

There have been complaints that the cost of maintaining the communal service has almost tripled.

The new charges will apply from April, but Tim Queminet, of Wykeham House, in Lowther Street, said he thought it was a lot of money given that the majority of council home tenants were on a low income. However, City of York Council said the changeover was costing approximately £160 per household and the increased charge was to cover installation and maintenance.