Grounds Maintenance (Estates)
The report provides an overview of the grounds maintenance arrangement across the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) land as well as an outline of the contract management arrangement, Council’s approach to tree management and how the ground maintenance service complements the wider approach to housing and neighbourhood management.
At the invitation of the Chair, Hakeem Osinaike (Operational Director Housing, Brent Council) introduced the report which provided the committee with an overview of the grounds maintenance and contract management arrangements across the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) land. He explained that grounds maintenance was on the government strategy for managing grounds maintenance contracts. The current contract was carried out by Veolia and co-managed by Environment and Housing Management Services.
In the subsequent discussion the committee raised several key points. Firstly, members put strong emphasis on the issue with inconsistency of standards and what Council was doing to bring all estates to the same level. Mr Osinaike stated that Housing Management was aware of issues with varying levels of service across the estates and were working towards addressing these and meeting their targets. He stated than a plan was in place which would monitor actions and assured committee that improvements would be made. As part of the planned improvements, he updated members on the recently introduced CRM system. The system which was being piloted across the Housing Department would allow for real time quality assessment of works by estate inspectors, with an intention to expand towards creating an app which residents could use to track progress. Members heard that discussion on the app were in place and the app was due to be released by the end of 2019 year. It would primarily focus on estate cleaning with the potential to expand. Officers confirmed that the new app would not replace the “Cleaner Brent” app and would have a specific purpose of monitoring. The CRM system would also simplify communication and liaison with councillors. Furthermore, Mr Osinaike stated that key performance indicators (KPIs) were available from Veolia, with an intention to move to specified KPIs for each estate going forward. The committee also commented on the effectiveness of the local environment quality checks programme which was introduced in 2007, as a way t to incentivise residents to maintain the grounds in their estates by giving them sense of ownership and engagement. Although the programme was not currently operational officers expressed willingness to explore this in more detail.
Discussions moved on with committee members spotlighting on the possibility of merging several contracts into one in order to make efficiencies. In response, Mr Osinaike stated that certain procurement processes were in place. Housing Management was considering taking a report to Cabinet regarding contract options in November. He explained that contracts would need to be re-aligned through procurement in April 2019 or later depending on the expiration date. There was opportunity for tenants to self- manage themselves through the set-up of TMOs. Members expressed concerns in the prospect of Veolia taking over the provision of all contracts and the implications this would have on performance monitoring. Mr Osinaike explained that terms and conditions were set by the Council in order to hold contractors to account. However, he stated that it was important to be flexible and give contractors opportunities to carry out their duties. He stated that the Council would be willing to explore alternative options, subject to demand from residents. Responding to a member’s query on whether a single company could provide all services or whether it would end up sub-contracting these to other
Housing Scrutiny Committee - 13 September 2018
providers, it was explained that while the Council had responsibility for overall contract and ensuring that residents get value for money service, the process would be kept transparent and companies would be able to bid for work where possible. Upon concluding the discussion, a point was also made on the importance of also considering community infrastructure levy (CIL) bids for estates with the committee requesting that officers explore this further and seek to raise awareness amongst residents.
i. That the contents of the Grounds Maintenance (Estates) report be noted
ii. That Housing Management Team shares data on the consistency of grounds maintenance amongst estates and any planned improvements.
iii. That Housing Management Team considers possibility of extending the Community Infrastructure Levy bid scheme to include estates