Brighton council prepares to drop Mears as housing contractor

Posted On 18 Sep 2018 at 3:05 pm

Council home repairs and refurbishments should be brought back in-house once the city council’s contract with Mears ends and other building projects split into smaller contracts, a report published today recommends.

Brighton and Hove City Council’s ten year contract with Mears plc ends in April 2020, but a decision on how these services are delivered in future needs to be made next month.

Mears has been responsible for services and works to the council’s 11,550 tenanted homes and 2,900 leasehold properties, as well as homes owned by Brighton & Hove Seaside Community Homes and others leased as temporary accommodation.

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Mears is understood to have paid the council at least £513,000 to resolve a dispute over systematic overcharging by a plastering sub-contractor.

A report to next week’s housing committee recommends that the services are split into customer service, responsive repairs and refurbishments, maintenance and improvement programmes, and major capital projects.

It says that since the contract with Mears started, all the council’s homes had reached the government’s Decent Homes Standard, significant investment in stock has been made and savings delivered.

But the report argues that bringing part of the service back in-house will deliver better value for money, better service and will be able to better support the community through apprenticeships and other initiatives.

Councillor Anne Meadows, Chair of the Housing & New Homes Committee, said: “We’ve listened to what our residents want and our priority is to deliver a high-quality, responsive and value for money repairs, maintenance and improvement service. It is one of the most important services we deliver to our tenants and leaseholders, and we’ve done a lot of work investigating all the options to make sure we provide the best service we can.

“Our current contract has delivered a good value repairs service and allowed us to achieve 100% Decent Homes across our housing, as well as many other improvements to our residents’ homes.

“It is important that the design of the new service allows us to maintain the high standards our residents have come to expect in the quality of their repairs and improve the areas where satisfaction has been lower.”

Statement from Mears Housing: Discussions around the repairs contract in Brighton.

A spokesperson from Mears commented: “We note the discussions taking place around the future of the repairs contract in Brighton.

“We are pleased to see the positive commentary about what has been achieved in the partnership between Mears and Brighton so far, including fundamental improvements to the quality of housing across the City. We see many opportunities to continue our relationship with Brighton in the future in support of Brighton’s significant investment ambition.

“We also note that the alternative approach to the response repairs part of the contract, may in fact be much more expensive than the service delivered by Mears (as much as over £6m more over the next 10 years) and am sure this will be taken into consideration during discussions at the housing meeting, given the wider pressures on the public purse.”

The report recommends bringing customer service and responsive repairs back in house, with the intention of directly employing Mears staff should they be happy to transfer under their current working conditions.

Meanwhile, both planned maintenance and improvements and major capital projects should be carried out by multiple contractors.

It estimates that creating a new contact centre would cost £246,000. An in-house responsive repairs team would employ 58 workers and 38 admin and managerial staff and cost about £7.86 million a year to run.

It says that Mears is already sharing estimates of staff that might transfer along with their salaries and other costs.

The report says there is a significant risk that Mears managers might not transfer even if that meant they faced redundancy, which would mean the council would have to recruit. It adds this would be difficult with the salaries the council currently offers.

The proposals have been drawn up after several months of meetings with councillors, officers, consultants and drawing on feedback from tenants, leaseholders and unions.

The full report, which goes before a special meeting of the housing and new homes committee on Wednesday, September 26, can be found here.

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    David Panter brought refuse etc. “in house” after outsourced problems around 2001, and called it City Clean, not that this resolved them. Though that is perhaps an eternally difficult situation. “In house” should make for a better situation but, as we have seen with the Carnegie Library fiasco, we have to be sure that there is a competent upper management and not one which brazens through a, shall we say, pre-determined line. I am surprised that the Chief Executive, Geoff Raw, did not step in earlier when it was plain for all to see that sleight of hand was being played over the Carnegie costs. I should like to see book selection being brought back in house, and librarians would agree with that. Meanwhile, all the best to everybody involved with housing maintenance. A phrase that has stayed with me while reading a book about the Hamptons twenty years ago is: “a house is never finished until the hearse is at the door”.

    Meanwhile, as for David Panter, he came from the NHS in Hillingdon and, after the Brighton experience, headed to the other side of the planet.

    • Peter Challis Reply

      Good to see you keeping focus on your beloved Hove Library and the need to having your own librarians ordering the books you want. Sorry, but the library is for all residents, not just the literary elite who think they know what is best for everyone.

  2. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Hurrah! Mears are a disaster. My two year old windows/balcony door are constantly going wrong. The 25 yr old ines I had before Mears yanked them out were in perfect working order and kept my flat warmer. The closed trickle vents in the new ones leak windy air into my flat. Last winter was seriously draughty.

    Mears are horrific.

    • Valerie Paynter Reply

      Well well well. Judt gone 2pm & a call from…..MEARS! ‘Selected’ to have an electrical test like I just won a prize! Why does that feel more like something else? I’d rather pay someone I could trust if push came to shove.

  3. lorraine bolt Reply

    Wherever this lands should have regular random checking system; Mears’ fiddled the system because they could. Work done by them has often been shoddy and haphazard and many jobs had to be done more than once. Things like the boiler maintenance for example which are required once yearly are done every 10 month thereby ultimately more maintenance checks than necessary were carried out;spread that over all council and the final bill must’ve been a nice little earner for them.Putting cards through doors saying they called and there was no response WHILE SOMEONE WAS IN are another little earner…multiple call out fees must’ve earned them a bomb!

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