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The re-lettings, repairs and maintenance and rents management services provided by Wolverhampton City Council are f...
The re-lettings, repairs and maintenance and rents management services provided by Wolverhampton City Council are fair but have uncertain prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

Tenants have good access to the services through a network of local offices and tenants are involved through a comprehensive tenant participation structure. The re-lettings service has a strategic approach to assessing the sustainability of the housing stock and looks to increase occupancy of its empty homes through a successful range of initiatives developed through the Homes Now! Team. Unfortunately, the repairs service offers poor levels of services to tenants who have difficulties in reporting repairs and who wait long times for repairs to be carried out. However, tenants seemed satisfied with the quality of the work and regarded the out of hours service as good. The rents management service offers a wide variety of methods for tenants to pay rent and has comprehensive procedures in place to tackle rent arrears. Advice and assistance to tenants who fall into debt is less comprehensive but the council has plans to improve this.

Martin Palmer, lead housing inspector for Central Region said:

'We found an enthusiasm for improvement to services from staff at all levels. However, varying levels of service are being offered to tenants. Although many elements of the services are innovative and the council is aiming to be customer focused, we were concerned by the standard of the repairs service on offer to customers. The council needs to make significant change if tenants are to see a real difference'.

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- There is a network of area offices and an established framework for tenants to become involved in the management of their homes

- The council has is performing well on the collection of rents and arrears

- There are a variety of schemes in place to let council homes

However a number of aspects require further attention:

- The length of time tenants wait for repairs to their homes

- A backlog of properties awaiting gas servicing

- Long times to repair empty homes

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

-- Introduce, in consultation with service users, effective ways of measuring customer satisfaction with the repairs service and ensure the information gathered is used to assess and analyse service delivery

-- Explore ways of increasing the success of gaining access to properties for annual gas servicing and arrange for procedures to be externally validated

-- Improve void turn-around times and ensure that individual voids are returned within the agreed target time so that they can be effectively pre-allocated

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