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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 02/04/2002
Housing Best Value Fundamental REviews 2001/02



APPENDIX E

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE–12TH MARCH 2002


Title:
HOUSING BEST VALUE FUNDAMENTAL REVIEWS 2001/02
[Wards Affected:N/A]


Summary and Purpose

This report summarises the key findings of the Best Value fundamental reviews of the following housing services:
Day-to-Day Repairs
Programmed & Cyclical Maintenance
Voids Management
Allocations & Nominations
which are set out in detail in separate reports, copies of which have been placed in the Members’ Room. These reports will be subject to inspection by the Best Value Inspectorate in spring of this year.

The proposed Improvement Plans relevant to each service area and a cross-cutting Improvement Plan relevant to all the service areas which include the resource implications are contained at Annexes 1 – 5.

The environmental and "Opportunities for All" implications are summarised in this report and are set out in detail in each of the separate review reports.
________________________________________________________________________

Background

1. Section 5 of the Local Government Act 1999 previously required local authorities to carry out a five-year rolling programme of fundamental reviews of all their services. A report describing the scope of the Housing Best Value reviews was presented to the Executive at its meeting on 12th June 2001. A Members’ Workshop was held on 5th July 2001 to illustrate the process and outline the issues facing each service area.

2. Each review had a separate Service Review Group that undertook the detailed research and self-assessment. This comprised officers directly involved in the service and representatives of the Finance Department. The Fundamental Service Review Team, chaired by the Director of Environment and Leisure, directed and monitored the review and evaluated the evidence offered by the Service Review Group.

3. Workshops were held with the Tenants’ Panel on 19th and 26th November 2001 to consider the findings of the reviews and their priorities for improvement. A Members’ Workshop addressing the key issues arising from the reviews and proposals for improving services was held on 17th January 2002.


Methodology

4. The reviews have been carried out according to methodology agreed by the Council which addresses the four ‘Cs’ to:

(a) challenge – why a service is being provided and whether it is being provided in the most appropriate way and at the appropriate level;

(b) compare – performance with other local authorities and other organisations across a range of relevant indicators; (c) consult – customers, partners, the voluntary sector and other stakeholders about the service under review; (d) use fair and open competition wherever practicable – as a means of securing efficient and effective services. 5. The reviews have complied with the corporate processes contained in the Council’s “Guidance on the Conduct of Fundamental Service Reviews” manual. This in turn was prepared in compliance with national guidelines and best practice.

6. All the evidence gathering including consultation was carried out or managed by the Service Review Group (SRG) reporting to the Fundamental Service Review Team. All consultation work apart from facilitation of the first Members’ Workshop was carried out in-house. An external consultant was engaged to provide objective advice on the competitiveness of current procurement arrangements and to carry out a ‘critical friend’ appraisal of the Best Value reviews and resulting Improvement Plans.

Reporting the findings

7. Due to the volume of information covered, the detailed findings for each service are set out in separate reports and copies of these have been placed in the Members’ Room. Evidence files have been compiled of the information supporting the findings. If Members are interested in inspecting these they should contact Margaret Wright, Housing Policy and Research Officer on 01483-523453 or e-mail mwright@waverley.gov.uk.

8. It was recognised at the outset that there were a number of cross-cutting issues affecting the services under review. Indeed, that was the main reason for reviewing the services at the same time. In practice, the reviews were run in parallel with common interests explored simultaneously. In view of this, it was considered appropriate to prepare an Overview report dealing with the links between the services and common themes that emerged. A copy of the report has been placed in the Members’ Room.

9. The Improvement Plan dealing with those improvements that are common to all the reviews (and, in some instances, the Housing Department as a whole) is attached at Annexe 1 of this report. At Annexes 2-5 are Improvement Plans relevant to each service area setting out the targets and actions required to address the review findings. The Improvement Plans reflect the priorities expressed by the Tenants’ Panel and include a timetable for their implementation so as to achieve continuous improvement over a five-year period.


10. For ease of reference, a summary of the findings set out in each of the five reports is set out below:

10.1 Common findings:

(a) The new Housing Department structure is expected to lead to greater efficiency in the provision of housing services.

(b) The lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities and absence of structured liaison and exchange of information arrangements between operational staff leads to misunderstandings and ultimately prejudices efficient performance.

(c) The facilities provided by Waverley to applicants and other housing customers visiting its offices do not meet good practice requirements in all respects.

(d) Customer feedback indicates that there are significant levels of dissatisfaction with the way complaints are dealt with. Gaps in information about complaints, including analysis by reason, means complaints are not being used to influence service developments.

(e) There is a lack of comprehensive, easily accessible, up-to-date written information on housing services available to all tenants.

(f) Service developments to date have generally not taken into account the profile of customers and the need to provide information and/or facilities that are accessible to people with disabilities, visual impairment or who are hard of hearing. Further developments required include adjustments to service provision to follow the Royal National Institute for the Blind’s “See It Right” guidance on clear print and websites and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf’s “Louder than Words” 10-point charter on best practice. The availability of Language Line interpretation and translation service has not been widely published. Staff require more equal opportunities training. Systems for tackling racial harassment will need further development for Waverley’s continued compliance with the CRE Code of Practice in Rented Housing which is a Best Value Performance Indicator.

(g) The failure to achieve an integrated approach to IT and access to Surveying and Maintenance data across the Housing Department is a serious obstacle to improving efficiency. Various difficulties have been experienced with the use of the Orchard integrated housing management system including storing tenants’ telephone numbers. In some instances, the full potential of Orchard has not been exploited. Problems with using IT have hindered the production and development of performance management systems. Facilities to enable on-line housing applications and/or inputting applicants’ details directly on screen in their presence need investigation and, if possible, implementing.

(h) Local performance indicators have been established for all service areas. Some of these have been found to provide little meaningful information. There are also some important gaps in the coverage of local performance indicators. Problems with using IT have hindered the production and development of performance management systems and accurate reporting.


10.2 Findings relevant to Day to Day Repairs:

(a) The Council has a legal duty to provide repairs and associated services to its tenants.

(b) The service makes an important contribution to the Council’s corporate objectives.

(c) The new management arrangements for the Day-to-Day Repairs Team are expected to help bring about improvements in the repairs service provided to tenants and in efficiency.

(d) Although the Day-to-Day Repairs service aims were developed in consultation with the Tenants’ Panel they have not been translated into comprehensive service objectives and standards so that customers can be fully aware of what to expect from the service.

(e) There is a lack of up-to-date written information available to all tenants about the repairs service and the Right to Repair.

(f) A reliable appointments system is not currently available to tenants either with regard to contractors carrying out works or Repairs Inspectors carrying out pre- or post-inspection of repairs.

(g) Strategic and operational measures are not in place to ensure that the maximum value for money is always achieved from the repairs and maintenance service.

(h) There is a lack of up-to-date, comprehensive documented policies and procedures for the Repairs service. Weaknesses in processes for day-to-day and out-of-hours emergency repairs are likely to have a detrimental effect on efficiency and customer service.

(i) There is currently no clear strategy or policy in relation to asbestos (or other known risks) present in the Council’s housing stock, particularly as regards the information given to tenants and repairs contractors.

(j) There are control issues relating to access to the repairs ordering system and the ability to raise, amend and approve works orders.

(k) Every effort is made to ensure repairs are carried out in accordance with policies on sustainable development.

(l) Day-to-Day Repairs actions relevant to the reduction of crime and disorder are as follows:
Ensuring repair timescales are met
Staff training.

(m) Computerised links between Waverley and its repairs contractors are not currently in place. Some elements of the repairs process are largely paper based. Waverley tenants do not appear to be enthusiastic about the development of facilities to enable repairs reporting on-line.

(n)
(o) Performance in relation to certain key Best Value and local performance indicators deteriorated significantly in 2000/01. Some improvements have already taken place in 2001/02. Major improvements are anticipated in 2002/03 with the introduction of the new Measured Term Contracts.

(p) European Foundation Quality Model self-assessment results for staff directly involved in providing the service gave the highest score for People and the lowest for People and Society Results.

(q) Many tenants do not appear to have written information about how to access the Day-to-Day and Out-of-Hours Emergency Repairs service. Customer satisfaction is greatest with the attitude of the repairs operatives and clean and tidy working. Dissatisfaction is greatest with the time taken before work starts, being told when workers will call and the quality of work. There are high levels of customer satisfaction with the Out-of-Hours Emergency Repairs call handling service but lengthy contractor response times in more than one in five cases. Customer feedback indicates that there are significant levels of dissatisfaction with the way complaints are dealt with.

(r) The only feedback received from contractors concerned problems with invoice processing that had been satisfactorily resolved.

(s) Staff providing the service recognised and confirmed some of the same weaknesses that tenants had identified.

(t) Staff affected by the service confirmed some of the same weaknesses as were identified through process mapping.

(u) Although Waverley’s performance compares favourably with its CIPFA “nearest neighbours” group as regards the average time taken to complete non-urgent repairs, it is poor when compared to other local authorities and RSLs in relation to the time taken to complete urgent repairs. Its performance in 1999/2000 on appointments made and kept was below the regional and national average for RSLs.

(v) Benchmarking of the Day-to-Day Repairs service in 1999 revealed that Waverley was:
below average in terms of the overall cost of repairs per dwelling and around average as regards the number of repairs per dwelling and the cost of each repair job;
above average for the client-side cost of the service per dwelling;
below average in terms of the repairs processed by each repair clerk per day;
one of the best performers as regards the percentage of total repairs dealt with as emergencies;
about average in relation to the proportion of repairs pre-inspected but carrying out an above average percentage of post-inspections (i.e. too many);

(w) A rigorous selection process for new repairs contractors involving the Tenant’s Panel took place in 2001 and two new Measured Term Contracts, one for each half of the Borough, commenced in February 2002.

(x) The higher level of service provided by the new Measured Term Contracts is likely to result in an increase of approximately 277,000 per annum in the cost of responsive repairs from 2002/03.

(y) The increase in the Council’s Standing Orders threshold for responsive repairs ordered under the Schedule of Rates to 10,000 should lead to greater efficiencies in the service and enable works to be carried out more speedily.

(z) The in-house functions of the responsive repairs service were included in the Voluntary Competitive Tendering of Housing Management Services which was awarded to Waverley’s in-house team in April 1999 after extensive and objective examination, evaluation and assessment.

(aa) While a significant part of the Day-to-Day Repairs service is already exposed to competition there is scope for further externalisation.

10.3 Findings relevant to Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance:

(a) The Council has a legal duty to provide a programmed and cyclical maintenance service to its tenants.

(b) The Council does not currently have comprehensive information about whether its stock meets the Government’s new “Decent Homes” standards. Following the ballot result against stock transfer in July 2000, the options for Waverley to finance the 20,000,000 of backlog repairs appear limited.

(c) The service makes an important contribution to the Council’s corporate objectives.

(d) The new management arrangements for the Repairs and Maintenance Service were implemented in July 2001. The relocation of the Surveying and Maintenance Section in January 2002 to join the Repairs service in Godalming is expected to help bring about further improvements in the service provided to tenants and in efficiency. Difficulties in recruiting and retaining suitably qualified and experienced technical staff may be due to insufficiently competitive terms and conditions offered by the Council.

(e) Although broad service aims exist, they have not been translated into comprehensive service objectives and standards so that customers can be fully aware of what to expect from the service.

(f) Although the Tenants’ Panel have been consulted about the planned maintenance programmes for 2002/03 and beyond, there is no agreed basis nor formal mechanism to ensure they continue to be involved in the development of planned maintenance programmes.

(g)
(h) Information about the Right to Repair is not supplied to tenants requesting repairs to gas boilers.

(i) Appointments are not always made with customers when access to their home is needed in connection with planned maintenance works. Difficulties in contacting customers are exacerbated by the lack of a central database of their phone numbers.

(j) Strategic and operational measures are not in place to ensure that the maximum value for money is always achieved from the repairs and maintenance service.

(k) Up-to-date, comprehensive documented policies and procedures that are shared with affected staff and subject to regular review are not available for all aspects of the Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance service. The lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities and absence of structured liaison and exchange of information arrangements between operational staff in the Surveying and Maintenance section and the Day-to-Day Repairs team leads to misunderstandings and ultimately prejudices efficient performance. Further guidance and/or training needs to be provided by the Surveying and Maintenance section to Repairs staff on the circumstances when a structural or asbestos survey is required in order to achieve a consistent approach. Communication may be improved as a result of the Surveying and Maintenance section’s relocation to Godalming in January 2002. However, the failure to achieve an integrated approach to IT and access to Surveying and Maintenance data across the Housing Department is a serious obstacle to improving efficiency.

(l) There is currently no clear strategy or policy in relation to asbestos (or other known risks) present in the Council’s housing stock, particularly as regards the information given to customers and repairs contractors. Information has been published to raise tenants’ awareness of the importance of providing access to contractors for annual servicing of gas boilers. Performance in relation to the proportion of annual gas safety checks and servicing carried out is set to improve in 2001/02 in spite of difficulties with one of the contractors and problems gaining access to 200 properties.

(m) A recent review by Internal Audit found that procedures for awarding contracts are operated well and accord with the Council’s Standing Orders (Contracts).

(n) Every effort is made to ensure programmed and cyclical maintenance works are carried out in accordance with policies on sustainable development. According to the Standard Assessment Procedure for measuring energy efficiency, Waverley’s housing stock scores more highly than the top quartile performance for all English local authorities. However, continued improvement depends on funds being available for additional energy efficiency works.

(o)
(p) The transmission of information electronically between the Surveying and Maintenance section and contractors already takes place for some areas of work.

(q) Local performance indicators have been established for most planned maintenance areas but there are some important gaps. Performance of contractors in relation to repairs to gas heating systems is not analysed nor reported. The target for inspecting repairs to gas boilers is not monitored against or reviewed as to its practicability. The need for systematic customer satisfaction monitoring had already been identified before the Best Value review and steps taken to introduce appropriate systems.

(r) Performance indicators were only introduced for Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance in 2001/02 so performance trends are difficult to identify. However, there has been a significant deterioration in programming works in 2001/02 and delays in responding to letters of complaint.

(s) European Foundation Quality Model self-assessment results for staff directly involved in providing the service gave the highest score for the criterion of Policy and Strategy and the lowest for Customer, People and Society Results.

(t) Most tenants are satisfied with the general condition of their home. The most commonly expressed priority for improvement is replacement windows. Leaseholders are generally far less satisfied with the Programmed & Cyclical Maintenance service than tenants. Customers would like more information about planned works. There are fairly high levels of dissatisfaction with the quality of work, especially external decoration. A high proportion of complaints are not resolved to customers’ satisfaction.

(u) The only negative feedback from contractors concerned Health and Safety requirements.

(v) Staff providing the service considered that they were handicapped by resource issues, corporate requirements and market conditions. They recognised the need for customer satisfaction monitoring and improved liaison with the Day-to-Day Repairs service.

(w) Staff affected by the service confirmed the problems caused by the lack of easy access to Surveying and Maintenance data, the absence of liaison arrangements and confusion regarding the Surveying and Maintenance section’s relationship with the Day-to-Day Repairs service.

(x) Waverley’s performance in relation to the energy efficiency (SAP rating) of its stock compares favourably with its CIPFA “nearest neighbours” group, other Surrey Districts and the top quartile estimated performance for English local authorities. This and the lack of resources available for further works explains why only very small improvements in the SAP rating of Waverley’s stock were achieved in 2000/01 compared with other local authorities. As regards the Best Value Performance Indicators relevant to renovation works carried out during the year, it is difficult to draw any conclusions from the information available given the diversity of results. In any event, performance is determined largely by the resources available for renovation work.

(y) Benchmarking of the Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance service revealed that Waverley had:
the lowest expenditure per dwelling in 2000/01
higher than average costs for windows and doors and around average costs for gas central heating
below average actual compared to planned expenditure
the lowest percentage of the programme spent in the first quarter
a slightly below average percentage of contracts started compared with those planned
the highest percentage of contracts completed compared with those planned to be completed
the lowest percentage of contracts completed by the Practical Completion date set at the beginning of the year. (z) Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance works are currently carried out by external contractors from the Council’s approved Standing List of Contractors. Commissioning work is carried out in-house.

(aa) The current requirements of the Council’s Contracts Standing Orders involve a lengthy tendering process for planned maintenance leading to delays in works being carried out. Although a corporate Procurement Strategy has been developed, a review of the Council’s Contracts Standing Orders has not yet taken place.

(bb) All Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance works are carried out by external contractors and are therefore exposed to competition. However, there is scope for further externalisation. Alternative ways of procuring works could prove more cost-effective than the traditional form of contracts currently used.

10.4 Findings relevant to Voids Management:

(a) Although there is no specific legal requirement, in order to maximise rental income and provide housing for those who need it the aim is to minimise the number of empty properties and re-let them as quickly as possible. There are no legal standards that properties are required to meet on re-letting apart from Health and Safety issues affecting gas appliances etc. However, social landlords are expected to have regard to the Government’s “Decent Homes” standards.

(b) The service makes an important contribution to the Council’s corporate objectives.

(c) Although the new Housing Department structure is expected to lead to greater efficiency in the provision of housing services overall, the Best Value review has found that the lack of a strategic approach to Voids Management with no single manager having overall responsibility for performance has acted as an obstacle to improving performance. This has been exacerbated by a lack of clarity about the respective roles and responsibilities of the Day-to-Day Repairs team and Surveying and Maintenance section in relation to voids.

(d) There are currently no comprehensive agreed service aims, objectives and standards for Voids Management so that customers can be fully aware of what to expect from the service. However, steps have already been taken to progress a review of re-letting standards to ensure a consistent approach is taken to carrying out the minimum acceptable void repairs.

(e) There is a lack of comprehensive up-to-date written information available to customers about all aspects of the Voids Management service.

(f) Strategic and operational measures are not in place to ensure that the Voids Management process helps achieve maximum value for money.

(g) There is a lack of up-to-date, comprehensive documented policies and procedures for Voids Management. Weaknesses in processes have contributed to delays in re-letting properties.

(h) Increasing health and safety demands put pressure on void turnaround times. The lack of guidance available to Repairs staff on action to be taken in relation to asbestos has led to inconsistencies in approach. Asbestos Visual Inspection Surveys and follow-up action have contributed to delays in re-letting properties.

(i) Every effort is made to ensure Voids Management is carried out in accordance with policies on sustainable development.

(j) Voids Management actions relevant to the reduction of crime and disorder are as follows:
Reducing turnaround of void properties to maintain low incidence of squatting
Review procedures – arrange appropriate training.

(k) Computerised links between Waverley and its repairs contractors are not currently in place. These should be developed during the course of the new Day-to-Day Repairs Measured Term Contracts. The implementation of the planned maintenance module of Orchard should assist in the monitoring of progress on void properties referred to the Surveying and Maintenance section. Various elements of the Voids Management process are largely paper-based and/or involve duplication. It would be useful to record information about stock attributes gathered during void inspections on Orchard.

(l) Inconsistencies in the approach to voids monitoring and target timescales make it difficult to have a clear overview and identify where delays are occurring. There are gaps in information adding to difficulties in managing performance.

(m) Performance in relation to the time taken to re-let empty properties improved slightly in 2000/01 to 43 days. A further improvement to 38 days is anticipated in 2001/02. However, the percentage of rent lost through dwellings becoming vacant increased in 2000/01 and is expected to worsen in 2001/02 to 2.2% due to an increase in the number of dwellings held vacant for works to take place. Delays in letting accommodation designated for the elderly has a major impact on overall void turnaround times, caused partly by ‘low demand’ for some sheltered and community warden properties and the assessment process for sheltered housing. Void repairs have been taking longer than the Repairs Team’s target timescale of 3 weeks.

(n) European Foundation Quality Model self-assessment results for staff directly involved in providing the service gave the highest score for People and the lowest score for Policy and Strategy.

(o) Tenants were concerned that Council homes sometimes remain empty for months. Customers’ views on the desirability of accompanied viewings were fairly evenly balanced. Most refusals of an offer of accommodation were due to location. 72% of customers consulted described the condition of the property they had moved into as good. Criticisms concerned the standard of repairs, cleaning and electrical wiring and overgrown gardens. Views on the adequacy of decorating vouchers received were equally balanced. Satisfaction with tenancy information was much higher than information about the property. More information about operating central heating systems and utilities as well as general property information would be welcomed. 30% of customers thought the time from receiving the offer of accommodation to tenancy start date was too short.

(p) Staff providing the service identified concerns relating to the condition of properties when they became vacant, the lack of accurate property attributes information and ‘low demand’ for some properties designated for the elderly.

(q) Staff affected by the service confirmed some of the same weaknesses as were identified through process mapping.

(r) Although Waverley’s performance is in line with the average for its CIPFA “nearest neighbours” group as regards the percentage of rent lost through dwellings becoming vacant, its performance is below the average for other local authorities and RSLs in relation to the average time taken to re-let dwellings. Waverley’s performance in 1999/2000 regarding the percentage of properties that were void awaiting minor repairs or available for letting was below that of other Surrey Districts but average compared with all RSLs. The percentage of Waverley’s properties void for other reasons was average among Surrey Districts and in line with top quartile performance for RSLs with more than 5,000 units.

(s) Benchmarking of Voids Management in 1999 revealed that Waverley was:
better than average in terms of the overall proportion of its stock that was void
just below average as regards the proportion of notices received on tenancy terminations
taking longer than average to relet properties overall, with a less than average percentage of all voids re-let in less than 2 weeks and the highest percentage of voids taking over 6 weeks to re-let
the highest in terms of the percentage of stock represented by sheltered housing
almost the highest as regards the percentage of total lettings accounted for by sheltered accommodation
average as regards the number of voids staff but below average in terms of the average staff cost. (t)
(u) The higher level of service provided by the new MTCs, including repairs to void properties, is likely to result in an increase of 277,000 per annum in the cost of responsive repairs from 2002/03.

(v) The increase in the Council’s Contracts Standing Orders threshold for responsive repairs ordered under the Schedule of Rates to 10,000 should lead to greater efficiencies in the service and enable voids requiring extensive repairs to be dealt with more speedily.

(w) The in-house functions relating to Voids Management were included in the VCT of Housing Management Services which was awarded to Waverley’s in-house team in April 1999 after extensive and objective examination, evaluation and assessment.

(x) While a significant part of the Day-to-Day Repairs service, including void repairs, is already exposed to competition, there is scope for further externalisation. 10.5 Findings relevant to Allocations and Nominations: (a) Although the requirement for local authorities to maintain a housing register will cease when the Homelessness Bill comes into force they will still have a statutory duty to allocate housing to applicants according to a published policy. Waverley’s Allocations Policy will need to be reviewed in light of the provisions of the Homelessness Bill and the Government’s aim that local authorities should offer more choice to homeless people and others in housing need in order to create sustainable communities, tackle social exclusion and make better use of the national housing stock.

(b) The service makes an important contribution to the Council’s corporate objectives.

(c) The new Housing Department structure is expected to lead to greater efficiency in the provision of housing services.

(d) There are currently no comprehensive agreed service aims, objectives and standards for Waverley’s Allocations and Nominations service so that customers can be fully aware of what to expect from the service.

(e) The facilities provided by Waverley to applicants and other housing customers visiting its offices do not meet good practice requirements in all respects. Clearer information needs to be given to applicants about certain aspects of the process.

(f) ‘Low demand’ affects 23% of Waverley’s sheltered and other housing designated for the elderly. Only 15% of households on the Housing Needs Register require specialised housing for the elderly or disabled whereas 35% of Waverley’s housing stock is specially designed, adapted and intended for use by the elderly. A strategy to achieve a better balance between the supply of and need for different types of accommodation needs to be developed.

(g)
(h) Documented procedures for Allocations and Nominations have not been subject to regular review and are therefore now out of date, particularly as regards the use of Orchard integrated computer system. The assessment process and the award of care points for sheltered housing needs to be re-examined. Some elements of the Allocations Scheme Pointing Schedule are unnecessarily complex and/or irrelevant. There appears to be no rationale for operating an informal policy of excluding HOMES sheltered applicants if they live more than 20 miles from Waverley. There are no structured feedback arrangements for Housing Management staff to advise the Housing Needs section of transfer applicants’ support needs, where relevant.

(i) There are no structured feedback arrangements and procedures in place to ensure information relating to possible risks is always shared among staff and acted on.

(j) Every effort is made to ensure the Allocations and Nominations service is provided in accordance with policies on sustainable development.

(k) The main Allocations and Nominations service development contributing to the reduction of crime and disorder will be the review of the Allocations Policy which will be required as a result of the Homelessness Bill, when enacted. Steps have already been taken to reduce anti-social behaviour through restrictions within the Allocations Policy. There will be a continuing need to ensure that appropriate support is available to the increasing number of vulnerable households requiring housing.

(l) IT administrative support now within the Housing Needs section should increase the use of computerised systems for the Allocations and Nominations service. More sophisticated matching of applicants with available properties should be possible. Facilities to enable on-line housing applications and/or inputting applicants’ details directly on screen in their presence need investigation and, if possible, implementing.

(m) Problems with using IT have hindered the production and development of performance management systems. Gaps in information add to difficulties in managing performance.

(n) The percentage of all tenancies granted to elderly people has consistently been higher and tenancies granted to families lower than targets set. This reflects the relatively high vacancy rates of housing designated for the elderly.

(o) European Foundation Quality Model self-assessment results for staff directly involved in providing the service gave the highest scores for Partnership and Resources and Policy and Strategy and the lowest scores for Customer, People and Society Results.


(p) Awareness of the Allocations and Nominations service is low among Waverley’s general population. The profiles of newly housed tenants and applicants who responded to the postal surveys carried out during the Best Value review were very different. Most newly housed tenants were elderly while applicant respondents tended to be much younger. Information about Waverley’s allocation policy and lettings process seemed to be much clearer to those who had been housed than to applicants. Although a very high proportion of applicants found the application form easy to understand and complete, many of them were not aware of or did not understand key elements of the process. The surveys appear to confirm the need to review and simplify the information provided to customers about the Allocations and Nominations service.

(q) Staff directly involved in the service identified concerns relating to the mismatch between the supply of and demand for different types of accommodation, staff shortages, facilities for customers visiting Waverley’s offices, support available on the use of Orchard and gaps in information stored on it.

(r) Staff affected by the service raised issues relating to the availability of information and liaison between the Housing Needs and Homelessness sections.

(s) Most of Waverley’s partner RSLs would prefer quicker responses to nomination requests. Clarification may be required about the status of some nomination arrangements i.e. whether there are formal nomination agreements. RSLs would prefer more information about nominees and some flexibility when they have someone with higher priority on their own waiting list.

(t) A poor response was received to invitations to comment on the Allocations and Nominations service by health and other relevant organisations. Replies indicated the need for Waverley to be more pro-active in providing general information about the service and exploring ways of closer working and/or better liaison arrangements. A mind-mapping exercise with stakeholders confirmed these findings and highlighted concerns over potential nuisance problems arising from housing younger people in accommodation traditionally occupied by the elderly. The lack of choice available to applicants and the practice of making one ‘reasonable’ offer before deferring an application was seen as being incompatible with good customer care.

(u) Comparison of performance with other local authorities is difficult due to the small number of relevant Best Value or Audit Commission Performance Indicators and the frequent changes that have taken place to them. In 1999/2000, Waverley’s performance compared with other Surrey authorities was above average in relation to the proportion of lettings arranged to homeless households. In 2000/01, Waverley was among the 50% of its CIPFA “nearest neighbour” group of District Councils and the 75% of local authorities in England that followed the CRE code of practice in rented housing. Waverley’s actual performance in 2000/01 as regards the percentage of tenancies given to vulnerable people (excluding older people) was well above its CIPFA “nearest neighbour” group’s estimated performance and only slightly below the top quartile estimate for all England authorities.

(v) above average as regards the number of staff but below average in terms of the cost of staff per FTE
well above average in relation to the proportion of transfers to smaller accommodation
about average as regards the proportion of all transfers granted compared to all lettings. (w) Waverley’s Allocations and Nominations service is currently provided in-house. Although there is scope for externalising the service, there is no evidence to suggest that another provider would be able to provide the service more cost effectively. Disadvantages of externalisation include a potential lack of control and disjointed working arrangements with other in-house services e.g. housing advice and homelessness. Examples of local authorities externalising such services are confined to those that have transferred all their housing stock. Action already taken to improve services

11. Steps already taken to implement improvements in housing services are set out in the detailed reports. For ease of reference, they are repeated below:

11.1 Action already taken to implement improvements relevant to all housing services:
One of the common issues identified by staff during the improvement initiatives, echoing the Best Value review findings, concerned the availability of information. As a result of these comments, arrangements were introduced in December 2001 for the minutes of the Department’s Management Team meetings to be available to all Housing staff.

(f) Arrangements for storing tenants’ telephone numbers: (g) Performance management:
11.2 Action already taken to implement improvements relevant to Day to Day Repairs:

(a) Departmental restructuring:
(b) Sustainable development: (c) Crime and disorder: (d) Contract arrangements:

11.3 Action already taken to implement improvements relevant to Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance:

(a) Departmental restructuring:
(b) Relocation of Surveying and Maintenance Section: (c) Satisfaction monitoring: (d) Health and Safety:
(e) Sustainable development: (f) Crime and disorder:
11.4 Action already taken to implement improvements relevant to Voids Management:

(a) Departmental restructuring:
(b) Review of re-letting standards: (c) Outgoing tenant to return keys earlier: (d) Re-examination of need to hold properties vacant following refusal of tenancy offer by homeless applicant: (e) Accompanied viewings: (f) More sets of keys available:
11.5

Action already taken to implement improvements relevant to Allocations and Nominations:

(a) Departmental restructuring:
(b) Review of Allocations Policy: (c) Strategy for dealing with ‘low demand’ properties: (d) Use of IT: (e) Sustainable development:
Improvement Plans

12. The proposals for improving services are set out in the Improvement Plans at Annexes 1-5. For ease of reference, the targets included in the Improvement Plans are set out below. 12.1 Targets relevant to all housing services:

(a) Housing services should have a customer focused Departmental structure able to deliver a quality service and benefit from economies of scale with well-trained and motivated staff.

(b) An improved physical environment for customers should be provided.

(c) Departmental policy, procedures, standards and systems for facilitating and responding to customer complaints about any aspect of the housing service should be in place.

(d) A comprehensive tenants’ handbook should be produced.

(e) Formal liaison and feedback arrangements for operational staff across the Department should be introduced.

(f) Equal Opportunities should be promoted.

(g) The use of IT should be maximised and steps taken to work towards E-Government targets.

(h) Housing services should aim to achieve top-quartile performance. 12.2 Targets relevant to Day-to-Day Repairs:

(a) Service aims, objectives and standards should be developed for the service that:
are responsive to customers’ needs and expectations
reflect legal requirements and the intention to provide a good quality service
adhere to Equality of Opportunity and Human Rights principles
maximise Sustainable Development
help to reduce crime and disorder and the fear of crime
are compatible with corporate objectives. (b) Formal policies and procedures should be produced for delivery of the Repairs service with particular emphasis on:
customer service
health and safety
efficiency.

(c) Improved information about the service should be provided to customers.

(d) Value for money should be maximised.

(e) The use of IT should be maximised and steps taken to work towards E-Government targets. (f) Improved performance management systems for monitoring the quality, value for money and efficiency of the Repairs service should be introduced. (g) Contract arrangements for the Repairs service that ensure quality of service and value for money should be in place.


12.3 Targets relevant to Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance:

(a) Service aims, objectives and standards should be developed for the service that:
are responsive to customers’ needs and expectations
reflect legal requirements and the intention to provide a good quality service
take account of the Government’s Decent Homes standards and national targets
adhere to Equality of Opportunity and Human Rights principles
maximise Sustainable Development
help to reduce crime and disorder and the fear of crime
are compatible with corporate objectives. (b) Formal policies and procedures should be produced for delivery of the Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance service with particular emphasis on:
customer service
health and safety
efficiency
value for money.

(c) Improved information about the service should be provided to customers. (d) Improved stock condition information should be available to all housing staff. (e) The use of IT should be maximised and steps taken to work towards E-Government targets. (f) Improved performance management systems for monitoring the quality and efficiency of the Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance service should be introduced.

(g) Contract arrangements for the Programmed and Cyclical Maintenance service that ensure quality of service and value for money should be in place. 12.4 Targets relevant to Voids Management: (a) Service aims, objectives and standards should be developed for the service that:
are responsive to customers’ needs and expectations
reflect legal requirements and the intention to provide a good quality service
specify the re-letting standard for Waverley homes
are directed to minimising the time taken to re-let properties and consequent rent loss
include clear target timescales for the different parts of the re-letting process
adhere to Equality of Opportunity and Human Rights principles
maximise Sustainable Development
help to reduce crime and disorder and the fear of crime
are compatible with corporate objectives. (b) A strategy for dealing with ‘low demand’ properties should be developed. [See Best Value review Improvement Plan for the Allocations and Nominations service for further details.] (c) customer service
health and safety
efficiency.

(d) Improved information about the service should be provided to customers. (e) Value for money should be maximised. (f) The use of IT should be maximised and steps taken to work towards E-Government targets. (g) Improved performance management systems for monitoring the quality, value for money and efficiency of the Voids Management service should be introduced. (h) Contract arrangements for void repairs that ensure quality of service and value for money should be in place.

12.5 Targets relevant to Allocations and Nominations:
reflect supply and demand issues
are responsive to customers’ needs and expectations
reflect the Government’s objectives of providing choice to those seeking social housing and creating sustainable communities
reflect legal requirements and the intention to provide a good quality service
adhere to Equality of Opportunity and Human Rights principles
help to reduce crime and disorder and the fear of crime
are compatible with corporate objectives. (c) Formal policies and procedures should be produced for delivery of the Allocations and Nominations service with particular emphasis on:
customer service
health and safety
matching demand for and supply of accommodation
a choice-based approach
equal opportunities
efficiency.

(d) Improved information about the service should be available for customers and stakeholders. (e) Value for money should be maximised. (f) The use of IT should be maximised and steps taken to work towards E-Government targets. (g) Improved performance management systems for monitoring the quality, value for money and efficiency of the Allocations and Nominations service should be introduced.


Resource implications of improvement proposals

13. There are no immediate resource implications arising from any of the Improvement Plans arising from the Best Value reviews of housing services that are not dealt with under existing budget provisions.

Environmental and “Opportunities for All” Implications

14. These are dealt with in each of the review reports and summarised in this report under the headings of Sustainable Development and Equal Opportunities.

Recommendation

It is recommended that:

1. the Council be recommended to receive this summary of the Overview report and four individual Housing Best Value Fundamental Service Review reports for Day-to-Day Repairs, Programmed & Cyclical Maintenance, Voids Management and Allocations & Nominations; and

2. the Council be recommended to adopt the Improvement Plans at Annexes 1-5 for improving the above services.



Background Papers (DoH)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D (5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.


CONTACT OFFICER

Name: David January Telephone: 01483 523361
E-mail: djanuary@waverley.gov.uk