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Derby City Council's front line housing services and their work to achieve sustainable estates are excellent and ha...
Derby City Council's front line housing services and their work to achieve sustainable estates are excellent and have excellent prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The housing inspection team gave the service three stars because the council has clear and relevant aims for the services that mirror their strategic objectives. Tenants and leaseholders are actively involved in the planning, delivery and monitoring of services. Services are delivered to tenants and leaseholders by highly motivated and committed staff working within clear, communicated and monitored policies and procedures. The council can demonstrate a comprehensive and inclusive approach to achieving sustainability on estates and this is complimented by robust and ongoing research. There is evidence of a shared culture that is working through inclusive partnerships to achieve the delivery of high quality services.

Roy Irwin, chief inspector of housing, said:

'In addition to the already high standards of services we found during our inspection an enthusiasm for improvement to services from tenants, leaseholders, councillors and staff at all levels. There is a shared understanding of the issues to be addressed and a shared commitment to achieving continuous improvement. This shared culture is complemented by an established track record in implementing service improvements.

'The council can demonstrate that it has the performance management arrangements in place to ensure that the service improvement action plans are carried out within agreed timescales, within defined resources and are measured against a range of communicated objectives. Each of the council's actions in the improvement plans is defined in terms of the improvements to services that will be achieved for its tenants and leaseholders.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- Tenants and leaseholders are actively involved in the planning, delivery and monitoring of services.

- The planned and programmed repairs and maintenance service meets the needs and aspirations of tenants and leaseholders whilst ensuring the improvement and sustainability of the housing stock.

- Anti-social behaviour and racial harassment are effectively tackled through tenancy management, effective partnership working and monitored procedures where intervention is required.

- Estates are well managed with arrangements in place to maintain and improve the appearance and security of areas in partnership with other agencies.

- Improvements have been made to the environment on estates and are viewed positively by tenants and leaseholders.

- Services can be accessed through a network of well maintained local offices, which provide payment facilities for rents and other charges.

- Sheltered housing schemes provide secure, supported housing for older people and supported housing projects provide good accommodation for vulnerable people.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

- Address the issues of access for people with disabilities at local housing offices using our findings, and those of the tenants' Service User Review Group (SURG), to inform the improvements required. Carry out training with staff on this aspect of customer care.

- Make sure that the appointment system for repairs is developed to meet the needs of all tenants and leaseholders. Communicate the details of the appointment system to tenants and leaseholders.

The specific service areas identified to be covered in the review were sustainability on council housing estates, rent arrears, money advice, tenancy management and anti social behaviour, responsive repairs service, customer care issues, empty properties and allocations, tenant and leaseholder participation, central and support services, IT and e-government issues, planned and programmed repairs and procurement issues and sheltered housing services. The revenue budget for the services for 2001/02 was£12.1m; consisting of£8.1m supervision and management costs and£4m for day to day repairs spend to the council housing stock. The service directly employs 215 staff with a range of contractors engaged in carrying out repairs, maintenance and improvement programmes to homes.

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