Agenda item

Housing Contracts: Responsive Repairs

(All wards)

 

Report authorised by: Bayo Dosunmu: Strategic Director for Resident

Services

 

Contact for enquiries: Andrew Jacques, AD – Repairs and Maintenance, 0207 926 3749, AJacques@lambeth.gov.uk

 

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness, Councillor Maria Kay, Neil Euesden, Director for Housing; and Andrew Jacques, Assistant Director for Repairs and Maintenance introduced the report.

 

The Sub-Committee next heard from Risq Animasaun, leaseholder and previous Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) Chair, who stated:

·           Her estate had a WhatsApp group which kept participants informed on the state of repairs. A common theme of this group was that outsourced contractors were letting residents and the Council down, with frequent changes of contractors and works not undertaken.

·           Many residents were not having repairs undertaken in a suitable period of time and the quality of service received was very poor.

·           One elderly leaseholder was in dire need of help, with a leak in the above tenanted property not fixed for four years and he now had crumbling kitchen and bathroom ceilings.

 

The Chair requested that officers review the above noted case further with Ms Animasaun, Councillor Masters, and the affected leaseholder outside the meeting.

 

The Sub-Committee next heard from Councillor Jackie Meldrum, who stated:

·           The Price per Property Model should be reviewed for responsive repairs and other housing contracts.

·           Residents were concerned about repair appointments no shows, and it was essential they be informed when this was going to happen and received apologies when it occurred.

·           Under the old Mears contract, tenants could apply for a £20 voucher for missed appointments.

·           Councillors generally only received notice of the most complex repairs and it would be useful if there were statistics on long-term repairs.

·           Lambeth’s housing stock was old and its infrastructure was now suspect, requiring multiple trades to fix issues, and surveyors needed to carry out a full investigation of stock.

·           It was requested to introduce a better system to protect tenants from cancelled appointments and provide analysis of overdue repairs.

 

The Sub-Committee next heard from Councillor Adrian Garden, on behalf of Antony Wynn – Chair of the Lambeth Homeowners Association, who stated:

·           There was no mention of resident involvement in monitoring contractors’ performance and it was queried whether there would be a formal residents’ panel to do so.

·           It was also queried whether there was a penalty clause for under-performance; and what were the targets, how were they monitored, at which point contractors were fined for failing to meet these and who monitored targets.

 

In response to the above and Member’s questions, the Cabinet Member and officers stated the following:

·           The Cabinet Member had spoken to leaseholders on Ms Animasaun’s estate and remained available to discuss issues with residents and continue to work together.

·           Officers would review a price per property model.

·           The early performance of Wates on appointments was poor and the Council, and Wates, had apologised.  However, since the report was published, data from February showed that appointments had increased to 76% for Wates.

·           Measures had been put in place so that as soon as contractors were aware they were running over time on previous jobs, they would alert residents via call or text.  The technology now in place would also allow residents to see arrival times and routes of attending operatives.

·           A stock condition survey was just starting and a cyclical repair programme would be implemented to carry out planned maintenance programme to maintain stock.  Additionally, smaller teams focused on estates were to be created in the move to a neighbourhood model.

·           Residents were involved in service design, tendering contracts, and evaluating questions. 

·           Contract management was reviewed daily and the Council could now review individual contract management and performances, including when payment penalties started. 

·           Wates had increased its customer service team to four persons and they were to contact residents when appointments were missed and had committed to delivering that service.

·           The call centre was still experiencing issues, such as detailing 50% of appointments as emergencies, when it should be closer to 20%.  This effected how contractors were reacting and meant that routine appointments were subsequently missed.  However, the Repairs and Maintenance team were working with contractors and Capita to alleviate these issues.

·           Lambeth had always had a missed appointment compensation policy and aimed for residents to receive repairs as quickly as possible, but this would be reviewed.

·           Recruitment across London remained difficult due to impacts from Brexit and Covid-19, with a condensed labour market ensuring higher salary demands than 18 months previously.  Lambeth had encouraged Wates and its 10 other housing contractors to use the Lambeth Portal to ensure local people were hired where possible. 

·           Wates had recruited significant numbers of Lambeth-based staff (75%) and now had that as a recruitment policy, in addition to offering apprenticeships to local residents.

·           Lambeth had reviewed its Housing complaints process and carried out extensive discussions with the Housing Ombudsman over the last six months, who were satisfied with processes in place since July, and the Council continued to work closely with them to maintain standards.

·           Lambeth’s contractors’ prices were linked to CPI and the Council was only obligated to increase rates as per the CPI regardless of material increases or labour market changes. 

·           Community works had a fixed long-term arrangement with Travis Perkins, as per the procurement framework, which actively protected budgets and fixed costs to indexes.

·           Mighty Property Services (MPS) was a gas servicing contractor, that had been acquired by the Mears Group, who carried out day-today repairs.  As detailed in the agenda pack, page 18, MPS had performed very well over ten years but had not received operatives under TUPE transfer nor recruited necessary employees and was underperforming.  Lessons learnt from this experience were also included in the agenda pack, page 19, to ensure it did not happen again.

·           Wates performed poorly on appointments during the start of its contract, but this had improved to 75% on-time, and further improvement was expected as a result of increasing numbers of customer service operators.

·           The old contract had a £20 deduction for missed appointments which was paid out to residents.  Deductions were still present and had significantly increased to c.£400,000 over the current contract term but was paid into the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and HRA social activity, and subsequently used for resident compensation.

·           Targets were 2-24 hours for emergency and 7-28 days for routine repairs, with earlier appointments prioritised over those requested later.  The previous appointment system did not receive this data nor offer monitoring, but Lambeth had invested in its own system giving it full visibility, which all contractors connected into, and helped the Council drive improvement.

·           Further reassurance would be requested at the next weekly Repairs and Maintenance team meeting to ensure missed appointments were immediately called, rearranged, and prioritised.

·           Lambeth had a strategy for vulnerable residents, which meant that it was aware of all vulnerable persons on estates, which was detailed on the Northgate system, and ensure they were prioritised.

·           Home visits were underway and staff could log information directly onto the Northgate system, to allow better identification of casework, and this was expected to go live in April this year.

·           A vulnerability team in Lambeth’s Housing department was being created.

·           All data from the appointments system was held securely on the Council’s the Northgate system and linked up with contracts and repairs information.

 

The Chair noted the Sub-Committee’s pleasure to see progress on voids, cultural changes, and repairs- particularly relation to action on damp.

 

RESOLVED:

1.         To provide the Sub-Committee with details on measures to monitor performance and how residents were to be involved in this process in addition to the area boards.

2.         To standardise missed appointments communications sent to residents.

3.         To provide the Sub-Committee with an analysis of the backlog of repairs.

4.         To provide the Sub-Committee with analysis of how the backlog was being reduced and how repairs were prioritised and undertaken, including for complex and vulnerable cases.

5.         To report back to the Sub-Committee on how the new contract procurement process delivered value for money.

6.         To examine how missed appointments were prioritised and rescheduled and ensure apologies were promptly provided to residents, by text or phone call.

7.         To publicise the Compensation Policy more widely and ensure that contractors were held to account for missed appointments and residents compensated for issues such as taking time off work.

8.         To provide the Sub-Committee with detail of the consideration to deliver an in-house repairs service.

9.         To provide the Sub-Committee with further information on how the Council audited and checked repairs carried out by contractors.

 

 

Supporting documents: