Housing contractor Mears faces more questions about its practices as fresh claims of overcharging have surfaced in a Brighton and Hove City Council audit report.
The questions come after Mears repaid the council about £513,000, including costs, after systematic overcharging by a plastering sub-contractor over at least a 17-month period.
The latest discrepancies relate to electrical work carried out by Mears itself and are estimated to be in the order of six figures again. The final sum is in dispute.
The council said: “The potential discrepancies were identified during a review last year and passed on to our Internal Audit Team to investigate.
“We are working with Mears to look at the discrepancies we’ve identified, including re-inspecting the properties in question.
“We’ve introduced additional checks and a joint quality assurance management process with Mears which has improved the monitoring process.
“The examination of the issues has proved complex and has taken longer than originally envisaged.
“Work is still in progress and includes inspection visits as well as the validation of data and other information.
“We have a number of regular partnership meetings with Mears where we review contractual matters.
“The contract is subject to significant oversight and, as with any large contract, there are mechanisms that may allow for escalation of disputes.
“We will report back to the Audit and Standards Committee in January 2018 once the review is completed.”
The report will cover “the outcomes from this work and the actions taken to resolve any issues arising”.
The previous overcharging surfaced publicly nearly two years ago and led to calls for more rigorous oversight of the contract with Mears.
The 10-year deal was described as a £20 million-a-year contract when it started in 2010 although the projected spend this year is forecast to be more than £29 million.
In the first seven years of the contract the council has paid Mears more than £170 million or almost £25 million a year.
This year’s forecast will take the tally to more than £200 million in eight years – or more than £25 million a year.
The contract – for responsive repairs, planned maintenance and major works for council homes – is due to end in 2020.
One of the ways Mears ends up charging more, is when they instal poor quality things in the first place that will become a serious repair and maintenance cost.
I had replacement taps put into my kitchen sink a few years ago (due to leakage of the old lever handle ones). The new ones drip too! Lately it is worse and I put empty Evian bottles up to catch the drips. Quite a revelation as it is a few litres a day!! And I have a water meter.
Lever taps can’t be washer-repaired either, so the whole thing gets changed. They were obviously not good quality and probs dirt cheap for Mears to acquire.
Some discipline in the made-to-last department would not go amiss.
Very high quality double glazing installed under Hove Borough Council in the 1990’s was also replaced under an £8m refurb of the estate. Only a year on, there are issues with the handle and difficulties with closing one of them. A lot of people are having strange experiences where adjustments to help close balcony doors propery don’t last and problems just keep resurfacing.
I would not recommend trickle vents to anyone who does not want a draughty home when they are supposedly closed or who cannot reach up high to use them. Worse, opening and closing of this style of window is a really complicated two-hand job involving button pushing and lever madness and a high level of dexterity and physical capacity to fight with it. They will cost BHCC a BOMB in repairs in years to come.
Astra Seal did not show up for an appointment to look at the wonky handle issue or come back to me when I rang to query the absence. I would not recommend their product full stop.
Mears are bloody awful. Every single job they’ve ever completed has been botched and needed a another call out to rectify. How do they keep getting the contract from B&H council?!?
We are always in formal dispute with the council over work done by Mears on a property we own…..well I say ‘done’ by them when I really mean that they have charged heavily for stuff they have NOT done at all. as for the council ‘checking’ on the work…..you’re having a laugh, they don’t check at all and don’t even seem to have any knowledge about building matters anyway. Every bloody year the council and Mears ‘invent’ a job that needs doing…and Mears gets the contract and the council gets a percentage of the money too as a kickback for sitting on their arses…….nice work if you can get it!
BHCC quite happily pays over the odds for many services. Look at the millions spent each year on “spot-purchasing” revolting accommodation from private slum landlords for “temporary, emergency” housing.. that people live in for months and years (so not actually temporary). No contracts, no conditions, no consideration of benefits or harms to the wider neighbourhoods. £300/week per revolting bedsit that most of us would not keep a dog in. Time there was a thorough audit of this practice too.
Sarah said “How do they keep getting the contract from B&H council?!?”
I think we all know the answer to that one, Sarah.
the custermer service is crap
It’s about time the council woke up to the fact that Mears, or indeed ANY contractor will automatically and systematically overcharge councils anywhere for as much as possible. It’s an age-old problem, nothing new. Contractors likely have to wait months for payment of invoices, and overcharging is a way to soften this. But mostly it’s about greed. Surely all councils should be able to have a team of skilled people who can read,understand and care about the costs being charged to the council.? How anyone can charge over £3000 for internal common way redecoration when the actual work took less than a week for ONE painter to complete makes me furious, when challenged the estate services council people seem totally confident that the pricing is correct. As a leaseholder any major work costs are passed to us, I dread the day when upvc windows need replacing!