The report outlines the current performance for Brent Housing Management from April – December 2018 in key improvement areas for the service. Performance targets are presented alongside monitoring data, commentary and progress against the improvement plan work.
Jo Walton (Head of Performance Insight and Improvement) introduced the report which briefed Members on the current performance in key Brent Housing Management areas for the period between April and December 2018.
In the discussion which followed Members raised a number of issues. Firstly, the Committee noted the variance in performance figures, with poorer rates observed in the winter months. Officers explained that this was due to the seasonal nature of calls and a combination of factors. Higher number of calls in the summer noted when most staff is on leave.
Referencing information in the report on number of calls answered within 3 minutes in the period from July to December 2018, Members noted that percentage of calls answered in November and December was lower than in previous months and that this did not give the impression of any improvement made. They also stated that it would be helpful to benchmark data against that of previous quarters. Officers stated that the data was recorded only because it was expected from the residents, and this was not the case under BHP. There had also been a change in telephone providers which had had an effect.
The Committee commented on the potential issue of staffing and enquired on the possibility of the Council recruiting more agency staff. In response, officers stated that contact centre resources were being reviewed as part of a wider structure review. New information to be used in order to establish what resource were required and ensure appropriate staffing levels.
Referencing customer satisfaction targets, officers acknowledged that there were areas where the Council was underperforming. Whilst overall call response by the Council’s customer services was rated good, the Committee heard that delays in carrying out repairs were more common from a contractor’s side. They acknowledged that there was a failure to manage response times appropriately just as much as Wates’s own poor performance. It was explained that issues often arose from the type of repairs – minor repairs were resolved quickly whereas more complex ones often required two or more operatives which, if not managed well, led to delays. A series of workshops and meetings had been held with Wates and actions were set for them to work towards.
Discussions moved on, with the Committee referencing information in the report and spotlighting on the downward trend in the percentage of repairs completed within 14 days. Officers stated that residents often come up with false statements to ensure Council attends quickly to their repair, because they don’t trust it will be done otherwise. As a result the two week measure had been introduced to ensure repair response are carried out promptly and consistently within specified deadlines. In terms of carrying out repairs below the agreed standard, officers explained that performance on that was measured. It was explained that as part of the contractual agreement with Wates any contractual services were charged at a flat rate, per property. This in turn created an initiative for the contractor to carry out repairs efficiently and to a high standard thus reducing the number of subsequent visits.
Members were mindful that the average case closure time of 58 days was not satisfactory. In response, Hakeem Osinaike explained that Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) issues were not usually resolved quickly and often required further investigation and mediation. He added that it was important to maintain good communication channels with residents. It was explained that many landlords measured satisfaction based on process itself rather than the outcome which created discrepancy in some of the performance figures. Whilst satisfaction figures quoted in the report were based on information obtained from an annual survey, it was anticipated that the roll out of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system would provide better, real-time intelligence on how cases were being handled.
Regarding noise complaints, Members enquired how the Council intended to tackle this and what the impact would be given the cuts planned for the noise team. Hakeem Osinaike acknowledged that this would be a challenge but assured Members that was not expected to have a significant impact as it would fall as part of the main Housing Management Team responsibilities and within core working hours. He explained that a balance had to be achieved between responding to noise complaints outside normal hours and providing a service within normal hours. In addition, an app had been developed which would allow residents to record evidence and report issues directly to the Council. Special equipment could be provided to those residents who could not use the app as an alternative to help them monitor noise. Enforcement would be carried out by the corporate ASB team. In conclusion, Mr Osinaike stated that a consistent and fair approach towards all residents had to be applied.
The Committee enquired about rent collection rates and were mindful of the fact that more than a quarter of the Council stock was in the form of leasehold properties.Officers expressed confidence that leasehold charges were going well with the actual quality performance on or above targets. They continued to say that the Council does not have the right to collect rents at source (under Universal Credit) but explained that a system was in place to identify and target those who might default before they get into serious problems. Officers expressed confidence that residents will continue to pay rent despite introduction of Universal Credit. However, they noted the importance of educating residents of the likely impact and help them limit damage and better manage their finances.
Finally, the Committee sought more information on parking performance which was not included in the report.Officers explained that five estates were visited to find out if there was an appetite for the new parking enforcement proposals. All estates refused so as a result the Housing Team was having to look at alternatives. Officers stated that there was a demand for improved parking controls but residents were not willing to pay the increased charges. Also not everyone used parking. Officers explained that current parking charges on estates were £10 per year but enforcement was very limited. Intention was to increase this in line with CPZ charges but keep it at the lower end. Enforcement measures were seen as compelling by residents but additional charges were not well received. The offer was therefore being reviewed and a paper was being prepared on new proposals which would be presented to the Council’s Policy Coordination Group in May 2019.
i. That the contents and improvements outlined in the Housing Management Performance report for the period April to December 2018 be noted.
ii. That a performance update be presented on a quarterly basis to include benchmarking with other boroughs.
iii. That a paper on proposals of reviewed parking arrangements be shared with Members prior to presenting it at the Policy Coordination Group in May 2019.
iv. That target setting is reviewed to ensure robustness and an update provided to the Committee.
v. That housing performance figures be uploaded on the Council website.
vi. That future performance reports include a focus on Registered Providers