Cllr Clayeon McKenzie updates on improvements to Housing Services and the Housing Ombudsman investigation

Councillor Clayeon McKenzie, Cabinet Member for Housing Services and Resident Participation provides an update on improvements being made across Housing Services. He also responds to the announcement that the Housing Ombudsman is to carry out a special investigation into the service.

We are committed to doing all we can to ensure we deliver excellent services to the more than 30,000 households living in our homes. We want to have a high quality housing service for all our tenants and leaseholders so they have a warm, safe and secure place to call home.

A good, warm and safe home plays a key part in helping improve the quality of people’s lives. This is why everyone across our housing teams has been working hard to continually improve the service we deliver.

There have been numerous challenges impacting our ability to deliver the service we want to and our residents need - including reductions in government funding, the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the criminal cyberattack as well as issues maintaining and repairing an ageing housing stock. 

Last year we set in motion our improvement journey and the strides we have already made have seen enhancements not just in how we deliver our services but also in the satisfaction levels of our residents.

For example, changes we have introduced over the last 18 months to the way we work are seeing faster response times for completing repairs and tackling leaks as well as damp and mould. We have made a commitment to inspect reports of damp and mould within five days and to visit reports of leaks by the end of the next day.

As a result of the work we are doing:

  • the average time for carrying out inspections of damp and mould in October was 4.92 working days. In February it was 38.86 working days;
  • reports of leaks are now being raised as an emergency unless the tenant requests differently. In October 521 reports of leaks were raised as an emergency - 88.76% of the number of reported leaks after taking account of requests from residents - with an average response time of 1.45 days.  In March 316 leaks were raised as an emergency - 46.4% of the number of reports after taking account of the requests from residents - with the average response time of 1.66 days
  • preventative surveys have been carried out on estates and blocks potentially at risk of damp and mould to to prioritise our work to help prevent the issue;
  • the repairs team has been expanded from 145 in 2021/2022 to 165  - as well as bringing in nine new apprentices;
  • a new Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme to help avoid potential lengthy legal cases and speeding up the delivery of the repairs needed has been introduced. So far 92 cases have gone through this process;
  • between October 2022 and October 2023 we have seen a 47% improvement in waiting times for routine repair calls to our repairs contact centre from 17 minutes to 9 minutes and a 50% improvement in waiting times for emergency calls from 6 minutes to 3 minutes;
  • we have agreed a Resident Engagement Strategy to improve the way Housing Services talks to, listens to and involves residents in helping to shape our services and put them at the heart of everything we do.

Obviously we have lots more to do to achieve our aims - but the improvements we are making are already being seen by our tenants.

The findings of the most recent tenant satisfaction survey  saw improvements across all of our Tenant Satisfaction Measures. Overall satisfaction level in the service rose from 52% last year to 59% while satisfaction with housing repairs increased from 58% to 63%, and 60%  were satisfied with the time it took to undertake a repair compared to 52% the previous year.

We fully accept that in the past we have not always lived up to the standards we set ourselves or those living in our homes expect and deserve - and we have apologised for that. There is still more to do but we are not the same service we were two years ago.

The basis of the investigation announced by the Housing Ombudsman are cases from before we started our improvement work.

While we have made strides we know there is still much we need to do. We will work with the Ombudsman throughout their investigation to look at all ways we can continue to build on the work we are doing to improve our service for the benefit of all our tenants.