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The housing repair and maintenance services provided by the Borough of Poole are good and have promising prospects ...
The housing repair and maintenance services provided by the Borough of Poole are good and have promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

An inspection team gave the service two stars* because significant progress has been made in the past year to increase the speed of repairs carried out to tenants homes, while more investment is being directed at preventative maintenance and improvement works.

Jacqueline Canham, lead housing inspector, said:

-We are very impressed with the recent improvements made to the housing repair and maintenance services in Poole. Many of these improvements have been driven by tenant and leaseholder representatives, who have worked constructively with the council and contractors to improve services. Further improvements can be made, but we are hopeful the good work already done will be built upon and customers can look forward to even better services in the future.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- Customer representatives are closely involved in managing and monitoring the repairs and maintenance service.

- Recent changes in the quality and speed of repairs to tenants' homes has greatly improved the service. This includes the introduction of an appointments system.

- Investment in the housing stock is heavily geared towards planned works to ensure the council obtains good value for its expenditure.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

- The contractor employed to service gas boilers and heating systems in tenants' homes has not performed well in the past year.

- Slow progress has been made in the development of partnerships with contractors to ensure better value for money in the delivery of long-term maintenance and improvements programmes.

- There is an over-reliance on the housing consultative panel to provide customer involvement and more tenants need to be encouraged to take an active part in service provision.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

- Provide greater publicity for service standards and targets, in a customer accessible format and improve access to services provided from the civic centre.

- Ensure gas servicing works are successfully carried out to each property annually and action is taken to ensure this year's problems are not repeated.

- Speed up the development of partnerships with contractors to deliver cyclical and planned maintenance programmes.

The Borough of Poole had a budget of£6.5m in 2001/02 to fund repairs and maintenance works to the 4,860 council homes which it owns and manages. This representated a significant increase of 46% on the previous year, with investment due to rise to£7.2m in 2002/03. Services are organised and managed by council staff, with private contractors carrying out the works to tenants' homes.

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