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'Aggressive' repairs firms took advantage of borough, report finds

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Hackney LBC is to give preference to internal housing repairs teams after a scrutiny report found contractors appointed to partnering deals had taken advantage of the council not looking closely at invoice prices.

A report to the council’s living in Hackney scrutiny commission last week said large, long term partnering contracts for housing repairs and maintenance had attracted investment in housing and some had worked well, but “the evidence we have gathered points to the vision of large and long term partnering contracts achieving true partnership working having been misguided”.

“Quite stark examples of poor behaviour by partnering contractors have been shared with us,” the report said.

These included ‘aggressive’ pricing in which contractors bid low at tender stage to win work and then sought to recover these losses by “over-pricing during the contract’s lifecycle”.

The report added: “Rather than working truly in partnership with their clients, some partnering contract providers appear to be seeking to take advantage of this approach whilst relying on [council] representatives not looking too closely at the pricing or invoicing’, and on clients not having internal resources to carry out full checks of works.”

It called on Hackney to bring clerk of works and quantity surveying functions in-house to allow for better supervision of projects.

In a response to the commission, Clayeon McKenzie (Lab), cabinet member for housing services, said: “At front and centre of our improvement strategy is our vision and total commitment to identify opportunities, wherever it is feasible, to use our in-house repairs and maintenance team instead of using external companies…under our new procurement strategy, our in-house team will be considered first for all jobs.”

Cllr McKenzie said nearly 45% of the borough’s residents lived in council homes and Hackney invested £60m a year in improvements.

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