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MIXED REPORT FOR CARDIFF CC HOUSING MAINTENANCE AND STREET CLEANSING SERVICES

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Aspects of the city & county of Cardiff's housing maintenance service are described as 'fair, with promising prospe...
Aspects of the city & county of Cardiff's housing maintenance service are described as 'fair, with promising prospects for improvement' in an independent report published today by the Audit Commission in Wales.

The Audit Commission inspection team looked at the way Cardiff receives requests for repairs, the emergency call out service, and repairs to vacant properties.

Roy Irwin, chief housing inspector for Wales and England said:

'This is a service that has a direct impact on the quality of life of many thousands of people within the capital city. Whilst staff are more than ready to help tenants who need assistance, there are some areas of concern. For example, the council does not know if it is meeting its target of two hours for attending to emergency repairs, and there are delays in reletting vacant property.

'We are very encouraged, however, by the commitment of staff, members and officers to improving the service and wish them well in implementing our report's recommendations.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- The repairs reporting line provides a good level of customer care

- Calls to the repairs reporting line are answered quickly

- Tenants receive a job reference number and confirmation that an order has been placed

- Calls to the out-of-hours service are answered quickly

- Properties are generally clean and clear for incoming tenants

- There is a commitment to health and safety issues with safety checks being made of vacant properties

But inspectors also identified a number of areas that need further attention including:

- There are only limited service standards to explain to tenants what to expect from the service

- Opening hours of the repairs reporting line are too limited

- Arrangements for non-English speakers and people with hearing difficulties to report repairs are poor

- There is no formal appointment system for repairs

- The council does not know if it is meeting its two hour target for attending to emergency repairs

- There are delays in reletting vacant property

The inspectors concluded that the service has promising prospects for improvement because:

- A lot of work was done to compare the service with that of other councils' of similar size

- The council has already completed a number of agreed action points from the Best Value Review

- There is a high level of commitment to improvement by staff

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

- Extending the opening hours of the repairs reporting line

- Adopting a formal system of appointments for repairs

- Applying sanctions when people abuse the out of hours system

- Carrying out work, where possible, after a tenant has moved in to reduce relet times

- Adopting a clear standard for when properties are in a condition to be let

The city & county provides a housing maintenance service to the council's 15,500 dwellings. The total budget for the housing maintenance service is£20m in 2001/02.

NOTES:

1. The service was inspected as part of the government's best value initiative, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible.

2. The inspection involved interviews with council staff and members, and members of the public using the service.

3. The Audit Commission inspection service was established to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council. Inspection reports judge how well a service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.

4. The government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to improve local services over the next five years. Councils must report annually on their performance (best value performance plans) and review all of their services over the next five years in order to identify and achieve continual improvements in local services.

5. Further details about the role of the Audit Commission can be obtained from its website.

City and County of Cardiff - Street Cleansing Service

The City and County of Cardiff's street cleansing service is 'a fair service that has promising prospects for improvement' according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

Independent inspectors from the Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star because the council has a good system for cleaning streets based on zones and streets are usually clean following 'zone day'.

Steve Nott, director of the Audit Commission Inspection Service Wales, said:

'The standard of street cleanliness in the capital city is relevant both to residents' quality of life and to broader considerations of economic development. I congratulate street cleaning staff on the generally good standard of street cleanliness.

'We are confident that the service has positive prospects for improvement. To assist this process the council will need to make good progress in implementing their own improvement plan and our report's recommendations. In particular, street cleaning needs to be more focussed in the city centre and some of the operational issues need to be settled.'

The inspection report highlighted a number of key strengths:

- Streets in the city centre are generally very clean

- Streets elsewhere are usually clean the day after 'zone day'

- 'Keep Wales Tidy' independently assesses cleanliness

- The service isn't too expensive compared with similar councils

- There is co-ordination between street cleaning and other services to avoid disruption on high speed routes

But inspectors also identified some areas that need attention:

- Members of the public don't seem to think much of service

- Members of the public aren't aware of what standard of service they should expect

- Not enough is being done to prevent litter and dog fouling arising in the first place

- Parts of the city where cleanliness deteriorates rapidly after 'zone day' aren't cleaned up quickly enough

Inspectors came to the view that the service has promising prospects for improvement because:

- There is a comprehensive action plan that tackles the important issues for the service

- The service has a track record of managing change successfully

- As well as the political will, there is commitment amongst senior officers to drive through improvements

- The 'zoned' approach has the potential to deliver improvements in street cleanliness

- The council has a track record of working with others and the community to deliver cleaner streets

To help the service continue to improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations for the council to implement over the coming months, including:

- In the city centre there should be more targetted action on things like tree grills, chewing gum, flyposting, undeveloped sites and commercial waste

- The service should develop its consultation links with community groups

- The council should review how a more 'joined up' approach could be taken to cleaning council land

- The council should introduce a more rigorous performance management system within six months

- The council should introduce team building for managers and supervisors

The city and county of Cardiff's Street Cleansing Service is part of a sub group within the highways and parks service called 'Street Operations'. The service has a budget of£4,119,230 in 2001/02 and employs 158 people working out of the Lamby Way, Waungron Road and Millicent Street depots.

Since August 2000, street cleaning in the capital has been operating on a zoned basis. With the exception of the city centre, Cardiff is divided into five zones - one to be cleaned on each day of the week.

NOTES

1. The service was inspected as part of the government's best value initiative, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible.

2. The inspection involved interviews with council staff and members, and members of the public using the service.

3. The Audit Commission inspection service was established to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council. Inspection reports judge how well a service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.

4. The government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to improve local services over the next five years. Councils must report annually on their performance (best value performance plans) and review all of their services over the next five years in order to identify and achieve continual improvements in local services.

5. Further details about the role of the Audit Commission can be obtained from its website.

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