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GRAVESHAM BC HOUSING REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE SERVICE SHAKES OFF 'POOR' TAG

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Gravesham BC's housing repairs and maintenance service to council tenants has improved and is no longer rated 'poor...
Gravesham BC's housing repairs and maintenance service to council tenants has improved and is no longer rated 'poor'.

The repairs and maintenance services provided by the council are 'fair' and have promising prospects of improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star out of a possible three following a recent re-inspection of the service. An earlier inspection carried out in 2003 had found that the service was 'poor', with a zero star rating.

Abdool Kara, head of housing for the southern region said: 'The council has made some notable improvements since our first inspection, particularly in relation to new arrangements for tenants to report repairs and in the way the council carries out the annual servicing of gas appliances. Prospects for further improvement are promising as the council has demonstrated a strong commitment to the service. Existing arrangements for providing the repairs service are being challenged with the aim of delivering further improvements.'

The inspectors' found the following positive aspects:

  • Structures have been introduced which enable greater consultation with tenants;

  • A customer contact centre makes it easier for tenants to report repairs;

  • There are clear arrangements for dealing with the risk of asbestos in homes;

  • Improved performance in the re-letting of empty properties;

  • There is a clear programme for meeting the government's Decent Homes Standard by 2010 and inte rim targets have been met;

  • There is good liaison between tenants and contractors during planned maintenance programmes and satisfaction with the quality of work is measured; and

  • Gas servicing is carried out effectively with over 99% of appliances having been serviced within the previous 12 months.

    However, there are still areas where improvements need to be made:

  • There is no formal arrangement to allow tenants to make an appointment for repairs work to be carried out;

  • Non-urgent repairs take too long to complete;

  • The council finds it is difficult to specify work accurately and variations of orders are high;

  • There is a lack of basic measures of performance; and

  • The capital budget was underspent by 20% in 2003/04.

    The inspectors rate the service as having promising prospects prospects for improvement for the following reasons:

  • Many of the recommendation from our earlier report have either been fully implemented or they are in the process of being implemented;

  • There is a strong corporate commitment to improving the repairs and maintenance service;

  • A service improvement plan is closely monitored by senior officers and the cabinet and scrutiny committee;

  • Additional resources have been invested in the repairs and maintenance service;

  • A new performance management framework has been introduced and staff appraisals are being conducted;

  • The council is now more open to tenant involvement which means that it is no longer a barrier to improvement; and

  • Existing procurement methods are now being challenged and new tendering arrangements introduced supported by a detailed implementation plan.

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

  • Introduce an appointment system for non-emergency repairs and pre and post inspections;

  • Wherever possible batch non-urgent responsive repairs jobs together into a mini programme of works;

  • Set clear, measurab le local standards and targets that reflect the current and future needs of tenants and residents; and

  • Clearly show what repair and maintenance schemes have been chosen to be carried out first and why.

    Copies of the report are available from Gravesham BC or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk

    Notes

    Gravesham BC manages 6,300 homes and has 320 leasehold dwellings. The population of the area is 95,700. The total budget for repairs is approximately£10.36m, of which£4.73m is revenue funding and£5.63m is from capital sources.

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