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ONE STAR FOR HART'S AFFORDABLE HOUSING SERVICE

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The affordable housing service provided by by Hart DC is 'fair' but has 'uncertain prospects for improvement', acco...
The affordable housing service provided by by Hart DC is 'fair' but has 'uncertain prospects for improvement', according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

On a scale from zero to three stars, the Audit Commission inspection team gave the service one star because it delivers a high level of affordable homes and an accessible housing service. However, it lacks a strategic approach to making the most of private sector housing and delivering value for money, and has not made sufficient progress in considering the diverse needs of local people.

Bernadette Fry, Audit Commission senior manager, said: 'The council has made some progress to meet housing needs through the delivery of affordable homes within the district. However, it also needs to make better use of existing housing and draw up plans to address the needs of all of its residents. The council should address its weaknesses in managing performance and its capacity. If not, these could pose a risk to the council's ability to deliver the improvements required.'

The inspectors found:

.The council has good information about housing need and has used this to inform its strategic aim to deliver affordable housing.

.There is a range of initiatives in place to prevent homelessness, including a rent deposit scheme and mediation services.

.The council works well with partners and has delivered a high level of affordable homes, which are well designed and in keeping with the locality.

.The lack of corporate management and stability, with gaps in skills, gives rise to doubts about the council's ability to deliver the improvements required.

.Performance management is not embedded within the council, and the council does not incorporate sufficient benchmarking or value for money considerations in the delivery of services.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations. These include:

.Improve access to services and standards of customer care, particularly for older people, minority groups and people living in rural locations.

.Improve the council's approach to private sector renewal, including assisting people to stay in their own homes.

.Strengthen the approach to service improvement planning, using benchmarking and other data.

.Strengthen the council's capacity to improve delivery of housing services.

The inspection covered a broad range of services which contribute to the delivery of affordable housing, including planning, homelessness and housing advice, private sector housing, and strategy and enabling. The council's net revenue budget for housing for 2005/06 is£662,200. The population in the area covered by Hart DC is 86,700 (2004).

Copies of the report are available on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk/reports

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