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SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE HOUSING SERVICES RATED 'FAIR'

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The housing services provided by South Staffordshire Council are fair and have promising prospects for improvement ...
The housing services provided by South Staffordshire Council are fair and have promising prospects for improvement according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

A team of inspectors awarded the council's housing grants and conditions, homelessness, housing strategy and Hinksford Mobile Home Park services one star.

Martin Palmer, lead housing inspector for the Central Region, said:

'The inspection team were impressed with the commitment of staff to improving the services. The council's reviews highlighted areas for improvement and the tendering process for the homelessness service has resulted in it being brought in-house. Other important aspects of the improvement plan have been progressed, some since inspectors were on site,and we believe the council has promising prospects of making further improvements. The council does need to focus on making the services easily accessible and to ensure customers know the standard of service they can expect.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

* high levels of customer satisfaction with services

* a satisfactory standard of hostel accommodation with bed and breakfast rarely used

* a private landlord forum and a new agreement to operate a rent deposit scheme

* good working arrangements with local housing associations

However, there were some aspects that require further attention. These included:

* work is needed on access to services for those in outlying areas without their own transport.

* the level of assistance available to grant applicants is inconsistent.

* performance in processing housing benefit claims is poor.

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

* Give continued high priority to the Homelessness Service, closely monitor the contract and ensure that rapid decision-making continues.

* Consider assisting grant applicants through an agency.

* Give customers a clear idea of what they can expect from the services and advertise the availability of those services.

South Staffordshire transferred their housing stock in 1997 and the homelessness Service was administered by the transfer housing association, South Staffordshire Housing Association. The budget for the Services for 2001/02 was£445,740 in revenue and a capital budget of£306,000 for disabled and renovation grants and£600,000 for Local Authority Social Housing Grants.

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