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The housing advisory service provided by Horsham DC is fair and will definitely improve, according to an independen...
The housing advisory service provided by Horsham DC is fair and will definitely improve, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

An inspection team gave the service one star.*

The housing advisory service review covered homelessness, the provision of housing advice, maintenance of registers of housing need and the allocation of social housing. The budget for running the service for 2001/02 is£364,760.

In January 2001, the council sold its housing stock to Saxon Weald Homes, but kept ownership of the temporary accommodation.

Jacqueline Canham, lead housing inspector, Southern Region said:

'Horsham residents receive a fair housing advisory service. There are beneficial links with local voluntary groups and resources have already been targeted to help the improvement plan for the housing advisory service to succeed. With it's strong focus on user consultation, and a quality improvement plan, we are confident further improvements to this service will be delivered.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- The council investigates cases of homelessness thoroughly, has clear decision letters and comprehensive and neat case files

- The council's housing website is helpful and easy to use for people with access to a computer

- Registered social landlords (RSLs) are satisfied with the service the council gives in respect of nomination for vacancies within their properties.

- The council makes only limited use of bed and breakfast accommodation and uses generally good standard temporary accommodation

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

- It is taking the council longer to make decisions on a significant number of homelessness cases than other comparable councils

- While the standards of temporary accommodation is good, there are certain areas that require service improvements

- The range and quality of housing advice information needs to be extended, especially to advise homeless applicants of their rights in appealing against decisions

- The council has a large number of applicants - 40 per cent - who do not fill in the ethnic monitoring question of the housing register form

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

- Develop a pro active approach to housing advice - particularly for private tenants and owner occupiers

- Improve the time it takes to make homelessness decisions

- Develop local service standards or performance indicators

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