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The housing management service provided by Ealing LBC is a fair service with uncertain prospects for improvement, a...
The housing management service provided by Ealing LBC is a fair service with uncertain prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star.

Joanna Killian, lead housing inspector for the London Region Audit Commission Inspection Service, said:

'Ealing needs to put good contract management systems in place as well as develop a strategy for rolling out its large scale improvement projects to ensure that tenants and residents receive good quality services.

'The council must build on existing work with tenant and community groups and use this to help shape future services.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

* The work undertaken by the resident participation unit is viewed as positive practice.

* There has been improvement in housing benefit performance, raising performance for rent collection into the top quartile (the top 25 per cent) for London councils.

* A staff performance management system has been implemented and has been running properly for one year.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

* The large-scale trial projects being planned mean that tenants and residents will receive varying levels of service. For example, the repairs' partnering pilot will only apply for the Southall area, leaving tenants and residents elsewhere with the existing poor service for at least another year;

* A significant percentage of gas appliances in council properties have not been serviced, leaving households at risk.

* There has been a significant amount of slippage in the councils improvement plan.

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

* The council should develop robust mechanisms to manage contracts, particularly in relation to the day to day repairs service.

* The council should ensure that it has robust mechanisms in managing the servicing of gas appliances.

* A revised improvement plan is produced giving greater priority to core activities.

Ealing's housing management service covers rent collection and arrears recovery, tenancy management, empty property management, repairs and maintenance, service contracts (for example annual gas safety checks and district heating), caretaking, cleaning and grounds maintenance and concierge/CCTV monitoring. The service employs 100 staff located at four area offices and 35 staff located centrally. The service is estimated to cost in excess of£20m for 2001/02.

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