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PRIVATE SECTOR HOUSING SERVICES AT LAMBETH ARE FAIR

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The private sector housing service provided by Lambeth LBC is fair with promising prospects for improvement accordi...
The private sector housing service provided by Lambeth LBC is fair with promising 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. This is because there have been a number of service improvements since it was last inspected in 2003.

Hugh Boatswain, lead inspector for London region, said: 'The service has improved from a very low base and in some areas is playing a proactive role within the region and sub region. The service is readily accessible to users and is well publicised.'

The inspectors found a number of key strengths:

--The Private Sector Housing Unit (PSHU) has taken a lead role across the region on key policy areas (for example, Landlord Accreditation) helping to ensure regional priorities are implemented;

--There is a very active Private Sector Housing Forum that is involved in helping to develop policy;

--The PSHU has developed a number of partnerships which have helped deliver improved services to service users, and

--The service provided by the Home Improvement Agency (HIA) is sensitive to the diverse needs of its customers and is proactive in its outreach work with good relationships with partners and stakeholders

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

--Telephone answering performance inconsistent

--The reception facilities at Hambrook House are not very good

--The council is still not sufficiently using its works in default powers

--Performance with regard to the numbers of unfit properties is still in the bottom 25 per cent of authorities both nationally and regionally

--The approach to value for money is not yet fully embedded within the performance culture of the PSHU

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

--Take appropriate steps to review the administration of complaints

--Take steps to do a complete audit of the PSHU reception facilities that are available for people with disabilities

--Take steps to develop a value for money strategy for the service

The Private Sector Housing Unit inspection covered Environmental Health (Enforcement), the Home Improvement Agency and the Empty Property Service. The operating cost for the service in 2005/6 was£1,384,760 with a capital budget of£2,295,254.

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

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