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NORWICH'S HOUSING REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE SERVICE RATED 'FAIR'

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The repairs and maintenance service provided by Norwich City Council is 'fair' and has 'promising prospects to impr...
The repairs and maintenance service provided by Norwich City Council is 'fair' and has 'promising prospects to improve' according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star out of a possible three. Tenants are engaged in many areas of the service, and repairs are being completed in accordance with agreed standards leading to high levels of satisfaction. But the council has made limited progress in addressing weaknesses, for example around value for money and diversity.

Mark Elsworth, Audit Commission lead housing inspector for the east of England, said: 'The council has implemented a range of initiatives that have enabled tenants to be more engaged in the service and there is a strong commitment by councillors and staff to improve the service. Repairs in many categories are completed promptly leading to increased satisfaction. However in a number of areas service improvements are still to be implemented. This is preventing the council from delivering a wholly economic, effective and efficient service that meets the needs of its tenants.'

The inspectors found:

  • Tenants can readily report repairs and can influence decisions on priorities and the content of work programmes,

  • Service standards have been produced and a wide range of initiatives implemented to improve customer care: for example estate inspections and areas of intensive management,

  • Many repairs are completed on time with high levels of customer satisfaction and vacant properties are being repaired and promptly re-let.

    But:

  • The council does not comply with the Commission for Racial Equality's Rented Housing Code of Practice

  • Performance management does not effectively drive improvement within the service

  • In a number of areas the repairs and maintenance service cannot as yet show it delivers value for money to tenants

  • The council is still to develop a strategy to address the g overnment's decent homes requirement.

    To help the service improve, inspectors recommended that the council should, amongst other things:

  • Develop a plan to meet and maintain the decent homes standard and address slippage in the current capital programme and other stock investment needs

  • Develop an action plan to address non compliance with the CRE code of guidance for rented housing and the departmental race equality plan

  • Work with contractors and tenants over the next 12 months to move from a responsive to a planned repairs and maintenance service

  • Show, over the next 12 months, if value for money is being achieved, and set out proposals for improving the service.

    The service under review consists of the housing repairs and maintenance service provided to 16,700 council dwellings in Norwich. The inspection covers all aspects of the repairs and maintenance service funded by the housing revenue account. The budget for the repairs and maintenance service amounted to£7m and the capital budget stood at£14.2m for 2003/04. During 2003/04 the council undertook 11,728 pre-inspections, completed 52,615 repairs and managed 1,431 empty properties. The council employs 250 within the housing department.

    Copies of the report are available from Norwich City Council or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk .

    NOTES TO EDITORS

    The Audit Commission is an independent watchdog responsible for ensuring that public money is spent economically, efficiently and effectively. Our remit covers more than 12,000 bodies which between them spend over£100 billion of public money each year.

    We are active in local government, health, housing, community safety and fire and rescue services and consequently have objective evidence on the overall impact of public services on users.

    In addition to making sure that taxpayers receive value for money, our aim is to provide impartial information on the quality of public services. We a lso act as a force for improvement by providing practical recommendations and spreading best practice.

    We are committed to working in partnership with other regulators and to ensuring that our own activities also represent value for the taxpayer.

    Further details about the Commission can be obtained from its web site www.audit-commission.gov.uk

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT ERIC LUDLOW ON 0116 250 4183

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