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ZERO STARS AND UNCERTAIN PROSPECTS FOR EREWASH HOUSING SERVICE

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The housing service provided by Erewash BC is 'poor' and its prospects for improvement are 'uncertain' according to...
The housing service provided by Erewash BC is 'poor' and its prospects for improvement are 'uncertain' according to a report released today by the independent Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission inspectors gave the service, which manages the development of affordable housing and the improvement of private sector housing as well as providing housing advice, no stars out of a possible three. The council does not have a positive approach to meeting the housing needs of the borough. Neither the design of the service nor its delivery was focussed on getting positive results for customers.

There are few positive aspects identified in the report, but it does praise the positive and friendly approach of the council's staff. The service's prospects for improvement are uncertain because of weaknesses in the council's track record, performance management and its capacity to deliver improvements.

Linda Birchall, the Audit Commission's lead housing inspector for the East Midlands, said:

'The strategic housing service at Erewash has not been well designed or delivered. We found a number of significant weaknesses that have a negative impact on the community and customers. The council is beginning to show signs of improvement, such as in improving levels of affordable housing provision in 2005/06. It has also responded positively to our findings, which is encouraging. But we are unable to say with any certainty that progress will be achieved.'

The report highlights key weaknesses in the service including:

.the lack of a robust approach to meeting the government's decent homes standard within the private sector;

.homelessness and housing advice does not consistently provide customers with prompt and appropriate decisions or support;

.poor strategic approaches to customer care, equality and diversity and value for money;

.ineffective performance management and improvement planning.

However, it also highlights some positive aspects, which include:

.staff who demonstrate a friendly and caring approach towards customers, throughout the service;

.detailed private sector housing stock condition information; and

.a genuine commitment to partnership working, which has developed significantly in the last 12 months.

Erewash BC is responsible for providing statutory services, including the provision of affordable housing, private sector stock condition and homelessness and housing advice services within the borough. The council does not own any housing stock itself, having transferred its properties to Three Valleys Housing Association in 2002.

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

BOROUGH HOUSING INSPECTION: STATEMENT FROM EREWASH COUNCIL

Acting interim chief executive, Ian Sankey, said:

'I am very disappointed with the score the Council has received from the Audit Commission with regards to our Housing Inspection. I feel this does not truly reflect the huge achievements that members and officers have made over the past two years in moving strategic housing issues forward in Erewash.

'The council has now built firm foundations to move forward and our progress and achievements have and will continue.

'In 2006/7 we will spend£1.6m improving private sector housing across the borough. I believe this puts the report into perspective and demonstrates that we are neither complacent nor lacking ambition in delivering better homes for our residents.

'I hope that when the Audit Commission returns to perform a progress inspection into our housing services, they are pleased with our achievements and progression.'

'The lead housing inspector gave a presentation to our staff on the day of the report's publication and acknowledged that we have continued to make progress since the inspection in February.

In his presentation he spoke of:

--staff who demonstrate a friendly and caring approach towards customers

--detailed private sector housing stock condition information

--emerging use of homeless prevention advice

--improved commitment to the strategic housing service, which has the support of councillors

--emerging progress against weaknesses identified in the audit commission's CPA assessment

--a genuine commitment to partnership working, which has developed significantly

'We are using the inspection findings to further improve and we look forward to demonstrating our achievements at future inspections'.

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