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Agenda Item No 9

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee: 7  December, 2016

 

Report of the Director for Environment and Housing

 

Update on Housing Improvement Programme

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To provide Scrutiny Members with performance information relating to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) improvement works in Council housing in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Recommendation

  1. That Members note the current performance of the contractors on the WHQS programme.

Reason for the Recommendation

  1. To ensure Members are furnished with necessary performance information pertaining to WHQS (attached as Appendix A).

Background

  1. The Welsh Housing Quality Standard Improvement Programme has been operational since September 2012. Members of this Committee requested an update report be provided to ensure appropriate monitoring of the financial risk of such a high profile contract.
  2. The WHQS programme of work has been operational now since 2012. Work initially commenced on the internal upgrades to the properties with new kitchens, bathrooms, heating, and rewires being installed to meet the standards set out by the Welsh Government. These works have now been substantially finished with approximately only 400 homes which had been identified for such work not receiving it. These 400 properties have not received the work because the tenant declined the improvements (this is recorded as an acceptable fail under the WHQS guidance and therefore still counts as a pass in terms of the Council's reporting process). All tenants who declined the initial offer of internal works during the programme, have been approached again to check if circumstances have changed and where tenants have subsequently opted to have the work completed this has been delivered. Any property which has not received the internal works is upgraded as part of the void process for the new tenant.
  3. Work is now underway to repair and improve the external fabric of the buildings where necessary and includes; new roofs, windows and doors, brickwork and rendering repairs, external painting and external wall insulation. Each property is surveyed to identify the necessary work before the contractors are instructed to complete these repairs and improvements.
  4. To facilitate the external repairs and promote best value, three contractors have been appointed by the Council to undertake the roofing work required. Satisfaction results for these three new work streams have been included in the appendices.
  5. The external works are necessary to keep the Council's housing stock in a good condition and in certain locations have a significant impact on the streets appearance, which has resulted in greater pride in certain areas.
  6. In April 2016, the management of the WHQS programme transferred from the Council's Property Services Team to Housing and Building Services. The team now managing the contract is working hard to ensure the work delivered by the contractors is to the best standard and within appropriate timescales. This has resulted in some challenges for the contractors in trying to resource the projects with suitably experienced labour and the difficulty in engaging appropriate levels of site resource has been noticeable in some areas.
  7. Housing and Building Services are now working hard with the contractors to agree the final accounts for blocks of work which have now been completed.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. From the performance information attached at Appendix A of this report, all contractors are now failing to achieve the targets set for the relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  2. There are several reasons for this apparent reduced performance. Firstly, the external works have a large impact on tenants' daily lives, with scaffolding being erected around the property for several months whilst the work is completed. Whilst this inconvenience improves the external appearance of the property, it does not have the same impact as a new kitchen, bathroom or heating system. As a result the satisfaction scores provided by tenants have been seen to be lower.
  3. As mentioned earlier in the report, contractors have found it difficult to recruit and engage suitably experienced staff to resource the contract. The project management team has requested the removal of a number of operatives from site because of a poor standard of workmanship and unsafe working practices.
  4. However, Members should be aware the satisfaction figures are a score provided from one to ten therefore whilst the overall average figure is seen to reduce the level of satisfaction (scores above 6), remains high.
  5. When undertaking the work to the external fabric of the properties it is necessary to complete an ecology survey to ensure any protected wildlife that might be living in the property is not disturbed. A number of roof surveys have found birds nesting and bats roosting in the roof space. It has therefore been necessary to delay certain works for the bird nesting season to elapse before work can progress. In the roofs where bats have been roosting it has been necessary to obtain and comply with a bat license before the works can progress. This too has caused some delays in progressing the work.
  6. Work has also commenced on rebuilding 16 post war prefabricated bungalows; these bungalows were designed by the aircraft manufacturer 'Hawksley' and were erected between 1947 and 1951 to address the housing shortage. The rebuilding of these units includes a complete demolition of the existing bungalow to floor slab and a new brick/block structure, rebuilt in its place.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. There have been delays to the project arising from ecology surveys and an inability to recruit adequate experienced trades. This major improvement project is scheduled for completion during 2017 and it is envisaged the majority of the work will be completed by summer 2017 despite the issues and delays raised above.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. The efficient and effective delivery of housing improvements increases the 'quality of life' for our tenants. The improvements include various energy saving works which help to reduce domestic energy consumption, hence assisting in protecting the natural environment.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. There are no Legal Implications at this time.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. Long term empty properties can have an adverse impact on the perception of residents living on our estates and can lead to increased levels of vandalism and crime.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. Improving our approach to housing refurbishment will benefit all parts of the community for which we serve.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. To manage the Council's workforce, money, information and assets efficiently, effectively and securely.
  2. Satisfying WHQS will improve the housing stock therefore contributing to the health, wellbeing and safety of tenants and other residents.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This report is within the policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The report presents Vale wide information so no ward Member consultation is required.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

Homes and Safe Communities

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Andrew Treweek, Operational Manager - Building Services - Tel 02920 673036.

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager - Legal Services

Accountant - Housing and Building Services

Accountant - Visible Services

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Environment and Housing