Councillor Jennifer Brathwaite, Deputy Leader of the Council (Housing and Homelessness), introduced the report and explained how the Council was redesigning its repair and maintenance service in order to deliver better quality, socially responsible and digitally-driven services.
The Deputy Leader of the Council (Housing and Homelessness) highlighted that the administration was committed to bringing services back in-house where they could be delivered more effectively and demonstrated better value for money. The proposals, set out in the report, would enable the Council to undertake communal repairs and deliver community and care services via a Direct Labour Organisation (DLO).
Cabinet was asked to note the following:
- Social responsibility was at the heart of the proposed DLO. The underlying ethos was to create a diverse workforce of council employees and apprenticeships which would provide much needed local employment and training opportunities to people committed to delivering quality services to Lambeth residents.
- Improving estates and neighbourhoods, and providing property adaptations to support disabled, vulnerable and older adults to maintain their own independence was an important driver for the DLO.
- The DLO would embrace some of the most dynamic ICT resource management systems available to ensure it was efficiently managed and financially viable. This software would also allow residents to access and track services online.
- The DLO would play its part in helping the Council achieve its 2030 net-zero carbon commitment. This would be done, primarily, through sustainable travel and a commitment to using electric vehicles with dynamic journey management to avoid unnecessary or abortive travel. The DLO would also work to implement a ban on all single use plastics and plastic would be recycled in accordance with council policy.
Councillor Brathwaite placed on record her thanks for the significant work undertaken by both a resident Task and Finish Group, who had conducted a detailed review of the Council’s communal repairs service in 2019, and the Council’s Resident Procurement Panel, which had been established to help the Council design, procure and manage its housing repair and maintenance delivery arrangements.
Councillor Scott Ainslie, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, stated that he supported the proposal and highlighted a number of issues which focused on:
- The importance of having checks and balances in place to ensure housing repairs were completed on time and to expected standards.
- Concerns in relation to performance data and statistics for the housing repairs help desk and the need for improvements to be made to ensure residents were able to report faults as easily as possible.
- The importance of testing the latest ICT resource management systems to ensure the new software worked and was accessible to all before going live.
- The need for openness and transparency in relation to DLO governance arrangements.
In response to questions the Assistant Director, Repairs and Maintenance, provided information on a range of topics, including:
- The DLO would be accountable to an independent governing board with a proposed membership consisting of the Director of Housing Services, Cabinet Members, Residents and a Cost Manager. The board would meet quarterly to review performance, expenditure, budgets, health and safety, culture, social and environmental commitments and would make strategic decisions to support sustainability and financial viability. It was also noted that the Council’s internal auditors would audit the DLO accounts annually.
- Repairs would be managed by industry leading dynamic resource scheduling software using algorithms to ensure travel and outputs were optimised and managed in the most efficient way. It was noted that ICT support was in place for this and that testing had been built into the timetable for delivering the DLO.
- To help achieve employment and training goals, set out in the report, a dedicated DLO Recruitment Campaign Group would be formed. This would include officers from across the Council including Skills and Employment, Apprenticeships and Career Pathways, Human Resources, Policy and Communications and Housing Services.
During the discussion that followed, Cabinet considered a wide range of issues, including matters relating to: the existing delivery model, general procurement requirements, equality considerations, the importance of delivering quality apprenticeships and targeted employment for residents across the borough, and the timetable for implementing the recommendations.
RESOLVED: That the following actions be approved, to allow Resident Services to deliver community and care services via a Direct Labour Organisation:
1. £349,000 mobilisation cost.
2. £4.1m annual HRA budget allowance (£3m revenue; £1.1m capital).
3. Recruit the necessary competent staff (including apprentices) to create a well-run DLO.
4. Absorb Housing Services’ technical property adaptation function into the DLO.
5. Lease the necessary hybrid/electric vehicles, partner with a digitally advanced builders’ merchant and procure the necessary dynamic ICT and resource management infrastructure.