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Housing repair departments have a long way to go to reach tough government ...
Housing repair departments have a long way to go to reach tough government

standards on the quality of housing stock, with only one in six rated as 'good' by best value inspectors.

This was one of the findings of Learning from inspection, an Audit Commission report into housing repairs and maintenance departments.

The report went on to note an encouraging 75% of those services were likely or certain to improve in the future.

But serious problems existed in delivering value-for-money in contracting out housing repairs and in the level of effective long-term planning of housing maintenance.

Too often emergency repairs were treated as a separate service from planned maintenance works, with two thirds of councils spending too small a proportion of their budgets on planned schemes.

The report's author, Maggie Kemmner, said: 'A lot of repairs are urgent, but there is evidence in plenty of authorities that repair-ordering staff will bump up the priority of emergency work. There is little control of responsive repair work.'

Planned maintenance programmes often run late and under budget and many councils could not show they had encouraged sufficient competition from suppliers, the report warned.

All council property in England and Wales must be brought up to a 'decent' standard by 2010, according to government targets.

English councils own about 3.3 million homes and plan to spend a total of£2.4bn this year on repairs, with a further£2.4bn allocated to capital programmes.

Some£856m extra funding is available for council housing repairs in England in 2001/2 compared to 2000/1.

Ms Kemmner said: 'Authorities have got all this extra money but they have a lot of work to do to meet the government's standards and to spend that money on the homes that need it most.'

The level to which tenants and leaseholders are involved in the planning of work varied a great deal across authorities.

'Tenants are given a lot of individual choice on what kind of repairs they want but less so on major decisions, where they tend to be asked to approve what the council has already decided,' said Ms Kemmner.

The report singled out Barnet LBC, Kensington & Chelsea LBC and Kirklees MBC for the successful way in which they had involved tenants in decision-making.

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