OPINION

We have to get the housing repairs service right for our tenants

Posted On 21 Oct 2021 at 6:55 pm

We must address concerns raised by residents about serious failures in the council housing repairs service.

And we must acknowledge that more effort needs to go into working in a way that delivers the absolute best service that we can for council tenants.

That means making sure that our processes are working well and that where there are issues, we strive to resolve them.

The changes to the delivery of repairs, maintenance and improvement services for council housing come following the end of the ten-year partnership contract with Mears on 31 March 2020.

The changes were agreed in 2018 following consultation with tenants, leaseholders and other stakeholders about their experiences and their priorities for the service in the future.

This came about not least because of the sheer number of complaints received.

The tenant satisfaction (Star Survey 2019) survey revealed that seven out of ten respondents (70 per cent) were satisfied with the repairs and maintenance service.

Almost a fifth of tenants were actively dissatisfied with the repairs and maintenance service (18 per cent), half of whom were very dissatisfied (9 per cent).

Bringing the service in-house was to bring about much-needed improvements, not only for our tenants but also for the workers provide them with better employment conditions and benefits.

Upon transfer, this came into immediate effect and once worker became employees of Brighton and Hove City Council, they received better pensions, holidays and sick pay. This is something to be proud of.

The repair service itself unfortunately leaves much to be desired and this is where we must now put in our efforts.

Between April 2021 and June 2021, 69.7 per cent of 4,081 routine repairs were completed on time (within 28 calendar days). This is down from pre-covid years and this must be considered, as of course there is a serious backlog due to covid restrictions.

It is recognised that the service has faced several challenges throughout this time, working within the limitations of the pandemic.

Performance remains off target as the service continues to work through the backlog caused by the coronavirus lockdowns.

It is important to emphasise that we are hugely grateful to all our staff who have put themselves at risk to deliver an essential repairs service during the covid crisis.

And we thank all those involved for the work that has gone into planning to make sure that our tenants and our staff are as safe as they possibly can be during this time.

However, it’s very important that we move on to working in a way that delivers the absolute best service that we can for council tenants.

That means making sure that our processes are working well and that where there are issues, we strive to resolve them.

We have successfully brought our repair service in-house which has meant better conditions for staff. What we must now focus on is providing the best possible service for our tenants.

Getting our repairs service right for tenants must be an absolute priority. What needs to happen is a serious focus on improving the service from a more responsive reporting service to a more efficient completion of repairs.

We must put all our efforts into achieving our goal of providing a high-quality in-house service so our residents can truly benefit from the transition.

Gill Williams speaks for Labour on the Housing Committee on Brighton and Hove City Council.

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