The housing inspectorate gave the service no stars* because although it does have a number of positive features, there are significant areas of weakness including the length of time taken to re-let homes, a high level of emergency repairs and weak performance management systems.
'There is commitment and enthusiasm from senior management and front line staff to identify and deliver improvements to the service, but the council must work with residents to fully identify the what the key issues affecting the repairs and maintenance service are, and introduce a clear system to measure and monitor improvement targets.'
The inspection report highlights some strengths:
-- Efforts have been made to make it easier for customers to contact the responsive repairs service through housing offices, customer access points, housing surgeries, a dedicated telephone number, letter, email, and home visits.
-- There is good consultation with tenants regarding planned work on their homes, including mini-exhibitions and road shows.
-- The approach and attitude of staff is generally positive and staff are considered helpful by most of the customers interviewed by inspectors.
However, inspectors also found a number of significant weaknesses:
-- The council produces a range of leaflets on the housing service but these are not on display or available in community languages. Offices are poorly signed and are difficult to locate.
-- Feedback from the council's regular satisfaction surveys for services such as responsive repairs is not used to make improvements, and there is no evidence that the tenant participation service is trying to involve hard to reach groups in service delivery.
-- The in-house contractor's performance has deteriorated in five of the six response repair categories. In a council survey, only 72 per cent of tenants said the time taken to carry out their repair was acceptable.
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
-- Ensure customer satisfaction monitoring is carried out for all areas of repair and maintenance and that feedback is used to make improvements to services.
-- Review the repair priority completion targets with tenants to ensure the council has challenging targets in all repair categories. Increase planned maintenance and reduce emergency repairs.
-- Ensure action is taken to address outstanding issues on gas servicing to comply fully with the gas safety regulations and health and safety guidance.
The council provides a housing repairs and maintenance service to 9,273 homes, including responsive repairs, work on empty homes, cyclical maintenance and planned and capital works. The service is estimated to cost£11,197,000 for 2001/02. Lincs Direct, the in-house direct service organisation, delivers the responsive repair works.
Copies of the report are available from North East Lincolnshire Council or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk