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WALSALL HOUSING GROUP AWARDED HIGHEST GRADE BY AUDIT COMMISSION

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Walsall Housing Group has been awarded one star and the highest grade - excellent - for its prospects for improveme...
Walsall Housing Group has been awarded one star and the highest grade - excellent - for its prospects for improvement by the Audit Commission.

whg has been working to improve homes and communities and deliver quality services to people throughout Walsall since its formation in March 2003 following the successful transfer of 22,800 properties from Walsall MBC.

The rigorous Audit Commission inspection, which was carried out during March, underlines how far whg has progressed in three years.

'During the first 12 months we created our foundations, then we began building on them,' commented whg group chief executive Liz Walford. 'The last year has seen us focusing on making real improvements to our services and the Audit Commission has recognised how much we've achieved since transfer.'

The Inspection Team awarded the 'excellent prospects for improvement' grading because 'whg has successfully delivered a significant range of service improvements since stock transfer in line with its transfer promises, focusing on what is important to customers, particularly home improvements, tackling anti-social behaviour and improving access to services'.

The report acknowledges that whg 'has a strong vision, values and objectives', and 'a culture that demonstrates commitment to people, diversity and communities'.

While the report classes whg's services overall as one star and fair, it highlights several areas in which it is performing particularly well.

whg's strong customer focus is commended, with its helpful and knowledgeable colleagues, conveniently located and welcoming local offices, and clear information provided for customers, all being noted.

The fact that customers are actively encouraged to get involved in developing whg's services, is also praised, along with whg's commitment to promoting equality and diversity, backed up by a range of support services to help vulnerable customers.

In addition, the report singles out whg's major works programme, which is improving customers' homes to a high standard ahead of target, and the strong partnership working which is leading to successful regeneration in many areas of the borough.

Although the Audit Commission believes some areas are still in need of improvement, it reports that it meets very few organisations which so clearly have improvement plans in place.

Liz Walford added: 'What's really heartening is that the Audit Commission has said that the capacity for whg to improve is strong and that we have the people, skills and capability to deliver our planned service improvements.

'It is proof that we are delivering on the promises we made to residents when they voted for transfer. The direction we've set for the organisation and the plans we have in place are sound and we are definitely on the right track.'

Notes

Walsall Housing Group is made up of six trusts - Bloxwich Housing Trust, Willenhall Housing Trust, Aldridge & Brownhills Housing Trust, Darlaston Housing Trust, Central Walsall Housing Trust and Walsall Housing Trust.

Created as a result of the Midlands' largest and most successful transfer of social housing, whg remains totally committed to full and proper involvement of tenants in delivering the improvements to living conditions, service delivery and the regeneration of its estates.

The Group employs more than 700 colleagues and has a turnover of over£50M p.a. It has recently successfully raised funding of£240M for a substantial re-investment programme of major works to homes and their environment over the next seven years.

Since completing the transfer of 22,800 homes from Walsall Council at the end of March 2003, whg has been quick to progress its planned improvement programmes and is well on target to deliver according to plan. In fact, whg recorded one of the earliest starts to a major works programme in the history of Large Scale Voluntary Transfers, with work on site on the day of transfer.

Audit Commission press release follows.

Fair service with excellent prospects for Walsall Housing Group

Walsall Housing Group currently provides a 'fair' service with 'excellent prospects for improvement' according to a report released today by the independent Audit Commission.

On a scale from zero to three stars the Audit Commission inspection team gave Walsall Housing Group (WHG) a 'fair' one star rating. Its services are accessible to customers, homes are being improved to a high standard and regeneration projects are being delivered effectively. However, service standards are not consistently publicised or monitored, services are not yet tailored to meet the needs of individual tenants and the repairs service needs to be improved further.

Martin Palmer, Head of Housing for the Central region,said:

'WHG has a strong track record of delivering improvements, focusing on things that matter to customers such as home improvements, tackling anti-social behaviour and improving access to services. We were particularly impressed with the leadership of the organisation which encourages a culture of continuous improvement. The group recognises that it still has some way to go to improve the quality of service in some areas such as day to day repairs and the reletting of empty properties.'

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

.Ensuring that existing service standards are consistently publicised and monitored as well as getting customers involved in their development and monitoring

.Completing comprehensive customer profile and tailoring services to meet diverse needs

.Introducing a repairs appointments system and ensuring that the new standards for repairing and cleaning empty properties are introduced and widely publicised

WHG was established in March 2003 following a transfer of housing stock from Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council. It has some 750 staff and manages 20,973 homes in the Walsall araea.

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

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