On a scale from zero to three stars the Audit Commission inspection team gave the service a 'poor' no star rating. Performance in most areas of the service is weak and some way below that of comparable councils. Services do not represent value for money and are not easily accessible. Nor are they delivered in a way that best meets tenants' needs.
'The inspection team identifed considerable weaknesses that need to be addressed if the council is to provide a good quality service to all its tenants. The council needs to focus on getting the basics right and on improving value for money. Although the council has responded positively to the inspection, it does not have an effective long standing track record in improving housing services. This, together with its lack of robust plans, in the past, to tackle poor housing performance has led us to assess its prospects for improvement as uncertain.'
The report highlights a number of areas for improvement. These include:
.The service is not readily accessible because service standards have not been published, office opening hours are traditional and information leaflets are not clear and comprehensive
.At the time of the inspection no improvements were being made to tenants' homes
.At the time of inspection the council did not have a thorough understanding of the condition of its housing stock and did not have a programme in place to meet the government's decent homes standard
.It is collecting information on vulnerable tenants but there is little evidence that this is used to tailor services to meet their needs
.Customers are not adequately engaged in improving and shaping services and their views are not being sought consistently
.Repairs are poorly diagnosed, appointments are not offered to customers and a high proportion of repairs are not completed on time. There is also a backlog of repairs, with some dating back to 2000
.The council does not have robust procedures in place to collect money from, for example, former tenant arrears, rechargeable repairs and service charges from leaseholders
.The service cannot demonstrate that it is providing value for money in many areas
However, anti social behaviour is being dealt with well and conditions on estates have improved.
To help the service improve, inspectors recommended that the Council should adress the shortcomings described in the report.
North West Leicestershire DC's housing service covers repairs and improvements, repairs to vacant properties, gas servicing, aids and adaptations, income management and tenancy and estate management issues. This is the first time the service has been inspected.
Copies of the report are available on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk./reports
Press release from the local authority follows.
COUNCIL'S JOURNEY OF IMPROVEMENT FOR HOUSING SERVICE
North West Leicestershire District Council's Journey of Improvement for Housing Services has already made some significant improvements in areas such as dealing with anti-social behaviour and making improvements in estate conditions.
The recent Audit Commission inspection of landlord services endorsed these steps.
Council Chief Executive Christine Fisher said: 'We are honest enough to recognize that we need to improve our housing service further and start to build on the strengths which have been developed over the last 18 months.'
'Even in the few weeks since the inspection we have taken a number of steps to
improve and make sure that our tenants receive the best services possible. In
the last year the whole council has been on a journey of improvement. We have
brought in new people with fresh ideas and have started putting our customers
first in the way we do things.'
The Audit Commission report assessed the landlord service as 'poor with uncertain prospects for improvement' and made nine recommendations about how the Council's housing service could improve over the next year. These recommendations include improving value for money and placing tenants closer to the heart of the service.
After receiving the report Councillor John Geary, the Portfolio Holder responsible
for Housing Services, said: 'It is fundamentally important that people live in good
quality, well managed homes. We know our tenants are very satisfied with the
services we provide but we also know we could do better.
'The improvement journey for housing may well be long but I am confident that
the members, officers and tenants will work together over the coming months and years to
really make a difference in the quality of what we do.'
North West Leicestershire DC provides homes for 4,600 tenants in the district.