The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star out of a possible three because tenants and residents find it easy to access the housing service and the council has made improvements to its housing service, however, the council's approach to tenant participation remains underdeveloped and there are no service standards for most parts of the housing service.
Martin Palmer, lead housing inspector, said:
'The council undertook a wide ranging review of its housing services and used the opportunity of the 'staged' inspection undertaken by the housing inspectorate to critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current service. The council responded positively to this inspection and we have been able to see improvements in three of the four key areas that we identified as poorly performing.'
-Housing services are easy to access and staff are polite and helpful
-The council has a good understanding of its local housing market and has used its capital resources to fund new social housing
-The council has made significant improvements to its responsive repairs service, tenants can report repairs using a free phone number and the majority of repairs are undertaken by appointment
-However, there are no service standards for most parts of the housing service, few of the council's leaflets are available in other formats and the tenants handbook is out of date
-The council cannot demonstrate that its services are provided in an equitable way and customer satisfaction is not being measured effectively
-Despite some recent improvements, the council's approach to tenant participation is still undeveloped
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
-Introduce, in conjunction with tenants and other service users, a clear set of measurable service standards covering all parts of the housing service
-Ensure that the housing strategy gives sufficient coverage to equality and diversity issues and ensure that all customer satisfaction surveys measure satisfaction by ethnicity, gender, age and disability
-Develop in conjunction with tenants a long term vision for tenant involvement which places them at the heart of all decisions affecting their homes and their estates and includes a strategy for involving more tenants from 'difficult to reach' groups
The housing services review covered all services provided to tenants who live the council's 3,300 properties and the council's strategic housing services. The service to council tenants is estimated to cost£8.4m in 2003/04 and other housing services are estimated to cost£1.57m in 2003/04. There are 94 staff providing these services.