Council Repairs Aren't Good Enough
My inbox fills with residents who have had an unsatisfactory repair, carried out by a council contractor.
6,000 unsatisfactory repairs are carried out each year. I think this needs to change, we need more scrutiny.
This is why I tabled a motion asking Havering Council to set up a Resident Repair Board.
My proposal would allow residents to inspect, call-in, and scrutinise repairs. Holding the contractors to account and empowering residents.
Unfortunately, Labour and the HRA voted against my motion. However, the Leader suggested this could be looked at in the future.
Watch and read my speech below.
Thank you, Mr Mayor.
Mr Mayor, like me, your inbox will be filled with residents who have had a poor encounter with council contractors.
It may be a road repair that was done poorly and needs a second visit. It may be a leak that wasn’t fixed properly.
I had one resident recently contact me because their newly installed toilet was coming off the wall after just a week. The wall has become saturated with water, soft, and no longer able to hold the toilet up.
Another resident told me of an issue they had with contractors taking up an old tree stump outside their home.
The first visit saw the tree cut down. The second saw lovely new tarmac laid around the tree. But, with the contractors stating they were not able to remove the stump as they were not the ‘tree people’.
In fact, it took 406 days before the tree was finally removed and the tarmac relaid… again.
Mr Mayor. In October, the Places Committee had a meeting!
At that meeting, the committee was presented with a report on repairs.
It noted that the Council undertakes around 30,000 responsive repairs annually.
It also revealed that our contractor, Mears, was securing a customer satisfaction rate of 80%.
Mr Mayor. This leaves us with 6,000 unsatisfactory repairs, every year.
I have to acknowledge that this administration has put in place a programme to work with our contractors, to improve this situation.
However, I believe that the current problem is too large to be met simply with a new plan. I believe we need a new way of working and I believe we need to put residents at the heart of it.
The Regulation of Social Housing Bill is in its final stages and will soon become law.
This bill, put forward by Conservatives, gives residents more power to hold their landlord to account.
It sets out new standards that require landlords to provide residents with information on how to make a complaint against them.
It introduces Awaab’s law, requiring social landlords to investigate and fix reported hazards within a specified timeframe or to rehouse residents.
It is resident centric and right at the core of it is the belief that it should be easier to get a problem resolved.
Mr Mayor, all of the major housing associations have a Resident Board in place.
These boards are formal committees that hold the Executives to account. They look at performance data, complaints and survey feedback.
Mr Mayor they are not dissimilar to our Overview and Scrutiny Board.
However, our O&S Board does not get out and about to see specific repairs. We rely on the hard work of officers and our contractors to keep us up to date.
With a Resident Repair Board, we could empower residents to take an independent look at specific cases.
Mr Mayor, Sutton Housing Partnership are leading the way in putting residents first with repairs.
Their Resident Repair Inspectors help to monitor the standards for repairs in their estates. Inspectors check repairs and then complete a satisfaction card.
I can see a fantastic opportunity for us to develop a hybrid, between the Resident Boards and Resident Repair Inspectors.
A group of residents, empowered to spot check our contractors and to produce reports and recommendations. A group of residents that can be reached, by other residents, independent of having to go through the council officers.
Used, as a last resort and when the traditional route fails them.
Mr Mayor, Havering Council has community representatives and participation panels. However, they are relatively toothless.
They meet with the Resident Engagement Team and they report on things that need doing. But they can’t hold contractors to account, and they are not part of any adjudication process.
I’d like to see residents at the heart of things. Residents being a part of the complaints process. Resident’s mystery shopping our contractors, carrying out flat inspections and putting forward recommendations for consideration by our committees.
Mr Mayor, the Cabinet Member for Housing is doing a good job of improving the situation with our contractors. But, he and the officers cannot do it alone. They need extra support.
I believe a Resident Repair Board would be a fantastic addition to our scrutiny of contractors.