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TRISTAR HOMES NOT DELIVERING ON SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS

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The housing management and maintenance service provided by Tristar Homes. on behalf of Stockton BC, is 'fair' and h...
The housing management and maintenance service provided by Tristar Homes. on behalf of Stockton BC, is 'fair' and has only 'poor' prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission gave the service one star out of a possible three. In 2002 it had been awarded two stars in the first round of the government's Arms Length Management Organisation programme. Tristar has spent almost£60m of government money on physical improvements to the housing stock in the past two years and this reinspection considered how services have developed during this intervening period.

Julie Slatter, the Audit Commission's lead housing inspector for the north east, said:

'Tristar's lack of progress over the past two years is disappointing and there are lessons to be learned from its approach by other ALMOs in later rounds. The organisation has focused on delivering decent homes at the expense of other services and it has failed to keep up with rising standards in the sector. Both the ALMO and council have taken on board the report's findings and have already begun to address recovery.'

The inspectors found:

. Tristar's services are generally accessible.

. There is slightly improved performance on rent arrears and the management of empty homes.

. There is good progress in bringing properties up to the government's decency standard.

. Tristar is weak in understanding and providing services for its diverse customer base.

. It cannot demonstrate value for money in most areas.

. It has had little success in involving residents.

. It has failed to deliver the step change in service delivery envisaged when it was set up because there are weaknesses in its capacity to plan, deliver and manage performance.

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

. Develop and implement a modern procurement strategy that delivers demonstrable value for money.

. Undertake a review of all support services, demonstrating value for money.

. By 1 August 2005, demonstrate to the Audit Commission how Tristar Homes and the council will return the service to a two star standard within 12 months.

Tristar Homes was set up in April 2002 to manage the council's 12,000 properties, when it took over the employment of 290 council staff. Its board is made up of six councillors, six tenants and six independent members.

The Audit Commission will re-inspect in another 12 months to ensure standards have been returned to a two star level.

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

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