The Audit Commission's inspection team concluded that there were a number of weaknesses in the trust and that services provided to customers were below acceptable standards. The inspectors found that the trust failed to comply with Housing Corporation's regulatory code and has asked that it be considered for supervision.
To help the trust improve its services the inspection team made a number of recommendations:
- Ensure that all homes receive a gas safety check
- Review the procurement and delivery of the maintenance service
- More effective monitoring of rent arrears
- Report ASB, nuisance and harassment to the board
- Ensure its resident involvement strategy is developed and delivered
- Develop measurable service standards and monitor them regularly
- Involve residents in shaping and monitoring the services they receive
The inspectors assessed the trust as failing to demonstrate capability in working towards continuous improvement.
Principal inspector Ray Barker said: 'The trust acknowledges that its 1999 best value strategy has failed. The trust has suffered from very high levels of staff turnover for six years and this has had a major impact on its ability to improve and develop services. While there was evidence that the new management has started to address some of the trust's shortcomings there is no track record of continuous improvement'.
The Audit Commission will inspect the trust again in 15 to18 months time.
Cherwell Housing Trust owns approximately 1,500 properties which are mostly located in the Oxford area. Its properties include general needs, leasehold and specialist accommodation for the single homeless, mothers & babies and refuges for women.