Agenda item

FUTURE OF THE RESPONSIVE REPAIRS SERVICE

To receive a report from Joanne Drew, Director of Housing & Regeneration.

Minutes:

RECEIVED the report of Joanne Drew, Director of Housing & Regeneration.

 

Councillor Gina Needs, Cabinet Member, Social Housing introduced the report highlighting the following:

 

i)             The Councils current contracts delivering day to day repairs and compliance contracts to Council houses are due to end in April 2020.It is therefore time to consider the most appropriate approach for delivering the services going forward, with an aim to:

·         provide improved value in terms of enhanced resident satisfaction,

·         support the local community and local supply chain and

·         effectively improve the condition of our properties.

ii)            The day-to-day repairs service has seen an improvement in customer and technical performance over the past 6 months. However, there remains room for continued improvement and greater flexibility as we improve the condition of stock through investment.

iii)           The report identifies and recommends a solution which seeks to manage risk, secure the continuing improvement of the service whilst providing value for money. It includes:

·          A phased approach to insourcing the day to day repairs service whilst continuing to outsource compliance services;

·         Proposed transitional arrangements for the gradual in-sourcing of repairs services whilst securing back up provision from existing contractors including beyond the end of existing contracts in April 2020 as necessary;

·         Procurement of compliance, cyclical maintenance and major works, but with a view to consider bringing these in house in the future;

·         The development of in-house capacity to ensure the commercial management of the in-house service and effective client-side arrangements for the mixed delivery model;

iv)           Key priorities for a new service model have been identified and is set out in full in the report.

v)            A stock condition survey is currently in progress and this will provide the information to develop long term investment strategies which will also inform the nature of the intermediate repairs.

vi)           The Council is committed to investing in its stock and has developed the Better Council Homes programme, which will see some £41m investment in the stock during 2019/20.

vii)          Recommendations in the report include:

·         The creation of a multi-disciplinary Operational Board which will report on progress to the Repairs Task Force;

·         Approve budget of £1.2 million, allocated over 2 years, funded from HRA repairs reserve;

·         Note that a 5-year business plan will come forward as part of the annual HRA budget cycle for 2020/21

 

Comments and questions were raised, and responses provided by Officers were as follows:

 

·         The move comes amid concerns that many repairs are not done properly first time and money is being spent on fixing follow-up problems.

·         It is hoped that the proposed model will deliver better value for money, provide jobs for local people and boost local businesses in the supply chain.

·         The cost of setting up the in-house team has been estimated at £1.2 million, while the ongoing costs are expected to be within the £4.8 million per year already spent on repairs.

·         If the proposals are given the go ahead by Cabinet, day to day repairs will gradually be brought in-house as the current contracts with private firms ends in April next year.

·         Under the new approach, a team directly employed by the Council would be responsible for emergency, urgent and routine repairs work, including small electrical and plumbing works.

·         Compliance works, major work programmes and voids would continue to be dealt with by contractors.

·         The Council’s ‘Housing MOT’ service, an in-house team set up to carry out yearly checks on the boroughs’ social housing would continue to operate alongside the other repairs services.

·         Feedback from residents had been obtained in many ways including on the job, analysing complaints and Customer Voice. Members said they would like to see feedback from Customer Voice included in the report.

·         Savings are anticipated over time as a result of lower volumes of repair work as the service model aims to deliver the right repair including renewal and replacement.

·         Many residents were currently coming to Councillors’ surgeries complaining about continuous works being carried out on the same issues. General opinion was that this was due to outsourcing as it was often difficult to hold contractors to account.

·         Members expressed concerns about plans to raise awareness among residents of how to complete minor jobs that are part of the day-to-day responsibility of renting a home. It was felt that this could lead to extra costs if people tried to carry out repairs themselves but ended up causing further problems. Garry Knights, Head of Housing Property Services said that this would relate to basic maintenance such as decorating, unblocking sinks etc. It was very much about empowering people and information; guidance and advice would be provided in a range of formats.

·         The new service model would offer the ability to deliver a repair ‘plus’ service which would help identify vulnerable tenants and meet their immediate needs whilst supporting and signposting to additional help.

·         It was stated that there were serious reservations about the proposals. It was pointed out that there had already been significant improvements to the current model, with the number of first-time fixes rising from 26% to 76%. Concerns were also raised that the Council could be hit by extra costs, for example, having to spend money on things such as storage depots. Garry explained that in terms of depots there is a contingency in the business plan to allow for that. He went on to advise that the initial consideration is to use third-party suppliers therefore there will not be the need for significant investment in infrastructure.

·         Members were concerned that the Equalities Impact Implications had been omitted from the report and, although the committee welcomed the idea of pre-decision scrutiny, they felt that it was imperative for the committee to receive at least completed draft reports if, as a Scrutiny Committee, it was to hold Cabinet reports to account.

Post meeting note

Councillor Aramaz reiterated these comments and said that in future he wanted to see full/final reports when they came to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee

 

AGREED that the Equalities Impact Implications for this report would be circulated to OSC members within the next couple of days.

Action: Joanne Drew/Scrutiny Officer.

 

The Chair thanked Officers for their informative report.

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