An inspection team gave the service one star because there is good consultation and high levels of customer satisfaction with major capital projects, which are securing tangible results in improving the quality of life for some customers. These projects are also helping to promote long term sustainability of certain areas.
'There is a clear commitment and enthusiasm to improving the service at all levels within the organisation. The new leadership at officer and member level is providing clear strategic direction and is determined to tackle difficult issues and drive change. The completion of the repairs and maintenance best value review later this year should assist this process.'
The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:
-- appointments are offered for some repair and maintenance work and customer satisfaction is usually sought on most services delivered;
-- a large amount of match funding has been secured for major projects; and
-- the council is making good progress in improving the energy efficiency of its homes.
However a number of aspects require further attention:
-- there is no evidence of long term strategic planning of housing investment and no clear methodology for prioritising particular projects;
-- the backlog of outstanding repairs is increasing and there were no plans to tackle this;
-- the council has no culture of competition and there is little evidence of value for money;
-- the council is not effectively managing budgets or performance and currently has limited knowledge of what they have actually spent or how they are performing this year; and
-- most tenants had not been issued with a tenants handbook setting out the priority times for different categories of repair.
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
-- produce an action plan and ensure the backlog of repairs are completed in a timely and effective manner;
-- ensure customer satisfaction monitoring is carried out for all areas of repairs and maintenance and that feedback is used to inform service development;
-- ensure that accountability and responsibility for driving improvement is clearly assigned to appropriate individuals; and
-- reconsider the current balance of investment to ensure resources are more effectively and efficiently utilised to tackle identified need and secure 'decent homes'.
The inspection was carried out prior to the completion of the council's best value review of repairs and maintenance, as part of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment. Inspectors acknowledged that the council has already started to tackle many of the weaknesses and recommendations identified in the undertaking of a best value review, which is scheduled for completion in November 2002.
The service area inspected was repairs and maintenance to the City's 35,000 council homes and included responsive repairs, work to empty homes, cyclical maintenance, planned and capital works. The service is estimated to cost£50 million per annum and is delivered by around 1,200 staff.
Copies of the report are available from Nottingham City Council or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk