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Agenda Item No. 8

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 13 March, 2013

 

Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

Housing Improvement Programme - Progress Update

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To update Members on the delivery of the Housing Improvement Programme to meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS).

Recommendations

1.             THAT Members note the contents of this report and progress to date.

2.             THAT Members consider and scrutinise the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for all contractors for the first work period since the commencement of the works i.e. September to December 2012.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To update Members on progress with the Housing Improvement Programme.

2.             To enable Members to review the performance to date of all contractors.

Background

2.             Cabinet at its meeting of 18 April 2012 (Minute No. C1716) agreed to the appointment of the four external contractors following a detailed procurement exercise via OJEU. The external contractors being:-

·         Contract A (Western Vale & Rural Areas) – Lovell Partnerships Ltd.

·         Contract B (Barry Area 1 – Dyfan & Gibbonsdown) – Ian Williams Ltd.

·         Contract C (Barry Area 2 – Remaining Barry Areas) – Apollo Property Services Ltd.

·         Contract D (Penarth & Dinas Powys) – SMK Building & Maintenance Ltd.

3.             Cabinet also agreed that Building Services would be allocated work packages as part of the improvement programme. This includes sheltered housing accommodation across the Vale which equates to £500k for the first six months of the programme (3 September 2012 to 31 March 2013) and £1m per annum thereafter. Building Services also refurbish void properties to WHQS when they become empty (offered to the external contractor if the void property is close to the vicinity of their current site working).

4.             All contractors formally commenced on site 17 September 2012 following a mobilisation lead-in period of three months (Lovells commenced on site 17 September 2012). The delivery of the Housing Improvement Programme is a significant refurbishment programme across the Vale in which all 3,946 Council homes will be upgraded to WHQS by April 2017 (Minute No. C1943 refers).

Relevant Issues and Options

5.             To protect the interests of the Council and tenants and to ensure that the wider benefits of the Housing Improvement Programme are delivered to the Vale, a number of KPIs have been established to monitor the performance of all contractors. The KPIs are split into the following areas:-

·         Overall Performance.

·         Quality of Service.

·         Community Impact

·         Environmental Impact

·         A Considerate Contractor.

·         Financial Accountability.

6.             In all, there are 16 KPIs to measure the performance of all contractors including Building Services. Appendix 1 provides the KPI report for the first work period September to December 2012. In future, KPI reports to the Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee will be based on quarterly cycles i.e. January to March, April to June, July to September and October to December.

7.             During the work period September to December 2012, the total number of Council homes upgraded were as follows:-

Contract Area

Contractor

No. Upgraded

Western Vale & Rural Areas

Lovell Partnership Ltd.

23

Barry Area 1

Ian Williams Ltd.

18

Barry Area 2

Apollo Property Services Ltd.

44

Penarth & Dinas Powys

SMK. Building & Maintenance Ltd.

35

Sheltered Housing

Building Services

23

Total

143

 

8.             The above figures outline actual works completed for this period and do not include those properties where the works continued into the New Year. It should be noted that the housing improvement works will vary from house to house and will be dependent on what is required to meet WHQS.  Members will be aware that £24m has already being spent via capital expenditure since 2007/08 which contributes to meeting the standard. It is however apparent that the majority of properties still need new kitchens, bathrooms and some form of electric upgrade.

9.             The actual works are determined at the 6 week validation survey with tenants. The survey team includes the Council’s Housing Improvement Supervisor and Tenant Liaison Officer, the contractor’s representative(s) and the kitchen designer from Richmond Kitchens – the Council’s preferred supplier for kitchens across all Vale homes.

10.        External works such as new roofs etc. will be programmed for the Spring and Summer months each year.

11.        Members will be aware that the Council had previously agreed that a “whole-house” approach for internal improvements would be adopted across the Vale. This includes a new kitchen, new bathroom, new heating system/boiler and new electrics where required. In moving towards this approach, officers were mindful of the significant disruption that this would cause to tenants.  In this regard, contractors are required to complete all internal works within 15 working days. Although this is a very challenging target, and necessary to reduce the disruption to tenants, because of the mobilisation issues of contractors for the first quarter, the achievement of this target was not expected to be high. 

12.        Other options are considered if tenants are unable to proceed with the whole house approach (such as vulnerable or elderly tenants) and this includes providing the works on a room by room basis or an elemental approach over time.  These two options do present problems of further visits from contractors, however, in the majority of cases to date, tenants have opted for the whole house approach albeit there have been a small number of refusals to date mostly from elderly tenants (7 full refusals for the first quarterly period).

13.        As a result of the KPI report attached (see Appendix 1), the following is worth noting in respect of the contractors’ performance.

Satisfaction of the Works (from a Tenant perspective)

14.        Overall, 85.2% of tenants were satisfied with the quality of the work carried out. The service provided by the contractors equates to an average of 70.3% whilst the standard of care and cleanliness equates to 75.1% (individual contractor scores are outlined in Appendix 1). This is very encouraging for the first quarterly period. This analysis is based on tenants completing a questionnaire following the improvement works to their homes.

Satisfaction of the Works from a Council perspective (Housing Improvement Supervisor)

15.        The quality of the service provided equates to an average of 67.2% for all contractors (KPI 2B) whilst the health and safety on the project is 73.5% - although this is below the target of 90%, further initiatives need to be put in place to reach the agreed target.

16.        The percentage of properties completed right first time (average quality score) equates to 87.7%. However, whilst the quality of the work is quite good, there is room for improvement as the contractors are not meeting the 15 day timescale for completing internal works (KPI 4 - % of Properties Completed on Time). This equates to an average of 43.4% for all contractors although significantly lower for Lovell Partnership Ltd. (21.7%), Ian Williams Ltd. (5.6%) and Apollo Property Services Ltd. (13.6%). This is disappointing from a Council perspective, as the longer the timescales, the more disruption to tenants (SMK Building and Maintenance Ltd. achieved 100% of properties completed on time whilst Building Services achieved 65.2%).

Void Properties

17.        As outlined in paragraph 3 above the majority of void properties are assigned to Building Services. Again, the quality of the work is very good i.e. for Building Services, 85.6% of properties are completed right first time (average quality score). The timescales for completing voids is disappointing however with only 4.7% meeting the agreed timescales for this period i.e. 51 void properties were completed by all contractors and 43 of these by Building Services. There were a number of reasons for the delays in returning properties within the agreed timescales i.e.

·         Mobilisation issues from the start of the contract.

·         Volume of voids.

·         Insufficient resources.

·         A much higher quality specification required to void properties from that previously.

18.        There were also other issues which affected void returns dates i.e.

·         Major works required to some void properties including structural and damp issues (and additional works found after commencement of the works).

·         Drying times to plastering due to "Sitex" metal screens (cold weather).

·         Some properties required detailed sustainability reports – considered “hard to treat” properties.

·         One property on hold due to “off-gas” issues.

19.        It should be noted that whilst extensions of time (EOT) were granted by Property Services to address the issues above, the effect of this is that the overall timescale for returning voids has been extended.

20.        The number of outstanding voids (as at 19 February 2013) equates to 76 properties and the following chart outlines the current void openings:-

Contractor

No. of Current Voids

No. Overdue

No. Ongoing (within agreed timescales)

Building Services

62

26

36

Ian Williams Ltd.

13

7

6

Apollo Property Services Ltd.

1

0

1

Totals

76

33

43

 

21.        The current number of voids is significant at any one time particularly when considering that all WHQS works have to be completed at the same time (there have been 20 void properties since 4 February 2013 – this is above average for this time of the year). This is not an ideal situation particularly when rental income is lost for those overdue properties.

22.        Building Services have acknowledged that there have been issues particularly with the volume of voids from the start. To address this, additional resources have now been put in place to improve on their performance.

Community Benefits

23.        In delivering the WHQS programme, the Welsh Government is keen that social landlords maximise community regeneration and benefits to the local environment so that local people see the benefits of such initiatives. This is particularly relevant in the current economic downturn. Community benefit/impact KPIs have therefore been developed to maximise this investment to the local area i.e. £82m will be spent on meeting WHQS by April 2017. The following provides an indication of the overarching benefits to date:-

·         60.5% of local sub-contractors employed are from the Vale postcode area.

·         51.3% of local labour employed on the Housing Improvement Programme live within the Vale postcode area.

·         14.6% of employees were previously unemployed.

·         13 apprentices have so far been employed by contractors with Building Services employing the majority (9 in all).

24.        In addition to the above, contractors tend to source their materials for delivering the improvement programme locally which has a knock on effect and positive impact into the local economy. Also, and as part of the award of one of the contracts, Ian Williams Ltd. has secured that one of their supply chain will open up a retail shop (Robert Price Builders) at Cardiff Road, Barry. This will be available to all contractors to use, will benefit the local community and will provide additional jobs as a result of locating to this area. It is anticipated that this will open in March 2013.

Tenants Quality & Design Forum (QDF)

25.        As part of the tender process, all contractors are required to attend the Tenants and QDF to report on progress in delivering the Housing Improvement Programme and to be scrutinised from a tenants’ perspective on their performance. The first such QDF meeting was held on Thursday 14 February 2013 at the Civic Offices, Barry. All contractors were in attendance, including Council Officers and five QDF members.

26.        Each contractor provided a presentation on their performance, the lessons learned and the way forward. The main learning points from the presentations being:-

·         Need to ensure completion times are adhered to.

·         Need to ensure snagging items are fully addressed before final handover.

·         Making sure contractors communicate every aspect of what they are doing and why.

·         Promoting joint ownership in achieving the objective of completing works in 3 weeks (including communicating to tenants when timescales are changing including deadlines).

·         Obtain feedback from tenants and implement improvements as a result.

·         Ensure tenants know what is happening and when.

·         Work more effectively – three contractors have introduced fundamental changes to their site teams and are now directly employing their own workforce (some local sub contractors have not been to the standard required for WHQS works).

·         Develop local engagement events with tenants so that issues can be dealt with sooner.

·         Ensure a “right first time” approach in each and every property.

27.        Feedback received from QDF members indicate that the session was very informative, that tenants now have a better understanding of how the works proceed and there is more that the contractors can do to for tenants including working together i.e. streamline the snagging list and all contractors apply the same standards across the Vale. It was agreed at the forum that each QDF tenant member will now be assigned to a contractor to discuss and review their WHQS issues/ performance.

Overview of Performance – September to December 2012

28.        The above mentioned performance figures indicate that the quality of the workmanship is quite good although there is room for improvement. Feedback from tenants, once the works are complete, is that they are more than satisfied with the finished product.

29.        The main issue is completing the works within the 15 days timescale and contractors need to significantly improve their performance in this area (apart from SMK Building & Maintenance Ltd. who achieved 100% for the first period).

30.        What should be acknowledged is that the works to tenants’ homes are extremely disruptive where the two most important rooms are being stripped out entirely. This is very demanding on tenants, their families and the vulnerable and cannot be under estimated. However, the Council is required to achieve WHQS, along with all other social landlords, and our commitment to achieve this by April 2017 has been accepted by the Welsh Government.

31.        The impact of the Housing Improvement Programme within the Vale will continue to be monitored via the community impact KPIs. It is pleasing at this stage, and at an that the Vale and our communities are starting to see the benefits of this significant investment. Officers will continue to maximise the benefits and promote this as much as possible during the programme and after the works are complete to leave a lasting legacy in the Vale.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

32.        Cabinet at its meeting of 17 December 2012 agreed the Final Housing Business Plan 2012. This is the primary tool for a local authority’s landlord service and includes all assets within the Council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA).

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

33.        The Council is required to meet the requirements of the Welsh Housing Quality Standard in refurbishing and upgrading tenants’ homes and this will assist in minimising the impact on climate change. In addition, the proposals will help the long-term sustainability of the Vale of Glamorgan by refurbishing homes that meet the needs and aspirations of tenants and residents.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

34.        It is a requirement that the Council meets the Welsh Housing Quality Standard and has advised that Welsh Government that this will be achieved by April 2017.

Crime and Disorder Implications

35.        Many of the requirements of the WHQS contribute to the Crime and Disorder agenda, in particular, the requirements of safe and secure dwellings located in safe and attractive environments.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

36.        All tenant homes are surveyed six weeks prior to the improvements works commencing (joint property validation survey). This is an ongoing process and will determine the extent of works to be completed at each property and to consider tenant’s welfare requirements prior to and during the works. This will include a consideration of tenants (and their families) who may have special needs, have ill health problems, their preferred language of choice and/or other support related issues which may well include external support where required.

Corporate/Service Objectives

37.        Meeting the WHQS and the Housing Improvement Programme contributes to the Council’s corporate priority of making the Vale a safe, health and enjoyable place to live via good quality housing and to achieve a quality environment.

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

39.        This report is for the consideration of Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) – the Housing Improvement Programme covers all wards.

Background Papers

Cabinet Report (18 April 2012)

Welsh Housing Quality Standard (Welsh Government) – July 2008

Cabinet Report (17 December 2012)

Housing Business Plan 2012

KPI Performance Report (September to December 2012)

Contact Officer

Simon Davies, Operational Manager (Assets)

Officers Consulted

Jane Wade – OM Property Services

Steve Morris – Head of Building Services

Andy Arnold – WHQS Framework Manager

Rob Lucas – Asset & Improvement Manager

Mike Walsh - Lawyer

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter – Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

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