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WIRRAL MBC GETS ONE STAR RATING FOR HOUSING REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE

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The housing repairs and maintenance service provided by Wirral MBC is fair and has excellent prospects for improvem...
The housing repairs and maintenance service provided by Wirral MBC is fair and has excellent prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The housing inspection team gave the service one star* because although signicant changes have been made in the past 12 months, their impact have yet to be felt. For example, there are still too many repairs being carried out as emergency work.

Nick Atkin, assistant lead housing inspector, northern region, said:

'The council is now in a strong position to develop this service for the benefit of tenants. Plans for improvement have the full support of councillors and a new system for monitoring progress and standards has been put in place. The new repairs response centre and the wider service have a strong management team and capable staff, and tenant participation across the service is improving.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

-- The council's new freephone repairs response centre, with its up to date IT and call handling equipment, is significantly improving the efficiency of the response repairs service.

-- The council is working to increase tenant participation in the service, including on some less popular estates.

-- The council is focusing on developing a reliable appointments system for

most repairs, and is consulting tenants to extend the opening hours of the

response centre and extending appointments to Fridays, weekday evenings and Saturday mornings.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

-- Tenants are not given enough information about the repairs service or the standards they can expect.

-- The council performs poorly in the length of time taken to re-let homes due to delays in cleaning and repairing empty property.

-- There are some areas of weakness in the administration of gas servicing. However, the council now plans to investigate all cases where gas servicing has not been carried out due to problems gaining access to people's homes.

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

-- Take steps to ensure tenants have a real say in decision-making about the repairs and maintenance service, targeting in particular traditionally excluded groups such as young people and minority groups.

-- Consult with service users to find ways to reduce emergency repairs.

-- Together with tenants and potential tenants, develop written standards for cleaning and repairing empty homes, including how long it should take to make a home ready to re-let.

The estimated cost for the repairs and maintenance service in 2002/03 is£24.3m. Planned maintenance includes painting, repairs, and central heating installation. The responsive repairs service includes day-to-day and emergency repairs, and cleaning, repairing and securing empty homes. A housing condition survey done in 2000 found that£32m was needed to modernise homes, and a total of£197m would need to be spent up to 2010 to meet the Decent Homes Standard.

Copies of the report are available from Wirral MBC or on the Audit Commission's website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk

NOTES:

1. The service was inspected as part of the government's best value initiative, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible.

2. The inspection involved interviews with council staff and members, and members of the public using the service.

3. The housing inspectorate was established to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council. Inspection reports judge how well a housing service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.

4. The government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to improve local services over the next five years. Councils must report annually on their performance (best value performance plans) and review all of their services over the next five years in order to identify and achieve continual improvements in local services.

5. Further details about the role of the Audit Commission can be obtained from - http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk

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