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The housing service provided by North Shropshire DC is fair, but has poor prospects for improvement, according to a...
The housing service provided by North Shropshire DC is fair, but has poor prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star because the council provides a good responsive repairs and rent collection service. Tenants who have received improvements to their homes are pleased with the work, and the sheltered housing schemes are attractive and popular.

Martin Palmer, lead housing inspector for Central Region said:

'The inspection team found that the services had some strengths, particularly in responsive repairs and rent collection. However, inspectors found that there has been slow progress in involving tenants in decisions that affect them. There are no service standards, tenants handbook or information available for tenants. We are concerned that the council has decided not to fit smoke detectors into tenants' homes and management of the warden service is poor.

'The improvements identified by the council will not ensure it achieves the performance of top performing authorities and many of the proposed improvements have not been completed on time. We found a lack of performance management within the housing service and staff and some managers there feel ill equipped to deliver further improvement.'

The inspection report highlights a some strengths:

* 98 percent of all urgent repairs are completed on time

* the rent collection service is collecting 99.3 percent of all rent due

* there are attractive and popular sheltered housing schemes and high levels of tenant satisfaction with the warden service

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

* there are no information leaflets, service standards or tenants' handbook available

* there has been slow progress in implememnting the tenants' compact and tenants are hardly involved in any decision making

* tenants who fall into arrears are not given debt advice or referred to the Citizens' Advice Bureau for help

* the council has decided not to fit smoke detectors in tenants homes

* management of the Warden Service is poor with Wardens receiving little support and supervision

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

* ensure that all tenants who fall into arrears are given the opportunity to receive debt advice by means of a referral to the CAB;

* reconsider the decision not to fit smoke detectors into council properties;

* ensure that all staff in the housing service receive both induction and on- going training to ensure that they can deliver high quality services to all their customers.

The service area covered by the reviews included all frontline housing services with the exception of homelessness, housing advice and allocations.

The council owns 2,562 properties and the housing service is delivered from the council's offices in Wem. The service cost£6.9m in 2001/02 and is provided by 34 members of staff.

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