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Agenda Item No 6

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 22 May, 2013

 

Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

Housing Improvement Programme - Progress Update

 

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

Recommendations

1.             That Members analyse the current performance and figures and note the interventions adopted to further improve the performance of contractors and the Vale’s own staff in delivering a high level of customer care to tenants whose homes are undergoing improvement works.

2.             That all Council Members be advised of the complaints management system being maintained by Property Section together with relevant contact details.

3.             That Property Section’s review of contract management processes they are currently employing on each of the WHQS contracts be presented to a future meeting.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To ensure Members are furnished with necessary performance information pertaining to WHQS to allow them to scrutinise officers effectively.

2.             To ensure Members have a single point of contact should they have any concerns regarding WHQS works being undertaken in their ward.

3.             To permit newly adopted processes to bed in so that the review can assess the effectiveness of these new processes.

Background

2.             On the 13th of March 2013, a report on the operational performance of the Housing Improvement Programme was presented by the Interim Operational Manager for Asset Management. During that meeting the Members voiced their concerns with the current performance of the contractors delivering the work particularly in terms of time taken to complete the work. In a response to this the five contractors appointed to carry out the improvements and officers from Housing and Property Services (managing agents for the contract) were invited to the Committee held in April to give Members the opportunity to question contractor representatives and officers directly on their performance. Members raised particular concerns regarding the overall time taken to complete properties and the poor levels of customer care tenants were experiencing in a large number of geographical areas as a consequence of poor communication and site management. Contractors at that time, particularly those that had been underperforming, gave a commitment to ensure performance was improved.

3.             Members were concerned about the time lag between work being done and the performance reports being presented to Scrutiny Committee and observed that the next performance report would not reach them until June 2013. Members requested that the Head of Housing and Building Services bring an earlier report focusing on site performance to the May HPP Committee. Appendix 1 attached details the performance for the last quarter of 2012/13 with the previous outturn data included for comparison purposes.

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             From the attached report it is evident that there is a marginal decrease in performance in terms of tenants’ satisfaction as an average across all contractors. There is a marginal increase in terms of satisfaction from Property Services Officers in terms of timely delivery of the project but a marginal decrease in the quality of the works and the health and safety awareness of all contractors.

5.             Broadly in the areas specific to quality of service performance has decreased, with the number of formal complaints increasing. Voids completed right first time have also decreased with a marginal increase in the number completed to time

6.             The number of apprentices employed on the project has risen to 20 in line with the Council’s community investment objectives.

7.             On reviewing the contractors on an individual basis it can be observed that there exists some incremental improvements in performance but also some reductions in performance both in terms of tenant satisfaction and time taken to complete the work (the focus of members concerns during the HPP meeting held in April 2013).  The outturn figures were largely expected due to the level of complaints that were being received by the Property Section Team and in line with the concerns of Members at that time.

8.             The following has been introduced by Contractors and Officers of the Vale of Glamorgan in April to tackle the issues that have been flagged by tenant and member feedback and the statistics presented in Appendix 1.

(1)          Vale of Glamorgan Tenant Liaison Officers will no longer be part of the survey process due to the time its was taking out of their week.

(2)          A lean process day has been carried out with officers from Housing, Property Section and Building Services to streamline the process and therefore reduce the time taken to bring empty properties back into use.

(3)          A further member of Property Section’s staff has been co-opted onto the WHQS team solely to carry out validation surveys which to date have been undertaken by the Housing Improvement Supervisor (HIS) for each area. This will afford each HIS more time to deal with site issues, tenants' concerns, undertake quality inspections, etc.  Consideration is also being given to the temporary appointment of an additional HIS plus a trainee Quantity Surveyor to assist with financial matters. 

(4)          To supplement the regular meetings that are held between Council and contractor staff working on the contracts at site level, a series of separate meetings between Property Section managers and contractors' senior staff are now being held on a two weekly basis. The meetings, which are held with individual contractors, are chaired by the Operational Manager (Property) and provide a forum for both parties to discuss high level issues affecting the contract and formulate any necessary corrective actions.  

(5)          Each contractor is required to provide a monthly report detailing progress and strategic issues affecting their contract. The reports comprise the following:

·         Executive summary

·         Health and Safety summary

·         Progress to date including updates on status of individual properties and any key issues

·         Community benefits including Targeted Recruitment and Training and local labour statistics

·         Financial summary including actual and forecast expenditure and statistics related to spend to local/national subcontractors and suppliers

·         Details of subcontractors procured including location of company (within Vale, 25 miles of Barry, within/outside Wales).

(6)          Property Section has taken ownership of the complaints handling process (previously most tended to be dealt with by the individual officer receiving the complaint). A more co-ordinated complaints management system has been put in place with a single point of contact being appointed. All complaints are logged centrally before being forwarded to designated contractor and Council staff to be actioned. Procedures regarding set timescales to address issues are set with tenants being contacted on a regular basis to ensure their concerns are being addressed.

(7)          The HIS team are now using tablet computers to assist in the undertaking of surveys, issuing instructions, accessing relevant databases, communications, etc. Whilst there are some ongoing compatibility issues relating to software/operating system issues, these are being resolved with assistance from ICT. A significant advantage of using these tablets is that each HIS has increased ability to work remotely dealing with site specific issues.

9.             As reported to Scrutiny Committee of 17th April 2013, it is Property Section’s intention to undertake a review of the contract management processes they are currently employing on each of the WHQS contracts. The objective of this exercise will be to assess the suitability of current arrangements and identify potential areas of improvement (e.g. resources being deployed, lines of communication, clarity of information, etc.).

10.        Having regard to new processes that have, or are being, put in place it is suggested that the review is delayed for a short period in order to permit these processes to bed in. The review will then be able to assess the effectiveness of these new processes.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

11.        There are no additional resource requirements associated with this paper however reviewing our approach to the Housing Improvement Programme may result in resource implications.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

12.        There are no implications.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

13.        There are no Legal Implications at this time.

Crime and Disorder Implications

14.        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)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

16.        To manage the Council’s workforce, money, information and assets efficiently, effectively and securely.

17.        Satisfying WHQS will improve the housing stock therefore contributing to the health, wellbeing and safety of tenants and other residents.

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

19.        The report presents County Borough wide information so no ward member consultation is required.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Hayley Selway, Head of Housing and Building Services

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager – Property Services

Operational Manager – Legal Services

Accountant – Housing and Building Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing.

 

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