Option to bring housing repair services back in house must go further, say Greens

Options to bring housing repair services back in-house should go further and cover more housing works, Greens will argue this week.

A meeting of HNHC on Wednesday 26th September will debate how to proceed with the delivery of council housing repairs, with the current multi-million pound contract with Mears PLC set to expire in March 2020. [1]
Over 11,550 and 2,900 leasehold properties and tenanted homes had been covered by Mears’ services, including kitchen and bathroom repair and customer service. With the contract coming to an end, Greens have raised repeated concerns over the suitability of outsourcing the service to private providers, calling for it to be brought back in-house. However with the Council likely to recommend bringing only some elements of the service back into Council ownership, Greens are calling for the committee to consider a wider range of options for in-house services, such as kitchen and bathroom works.  [2][3]
A Green amendment to the proposals will push the Council to continue to explore bringing further elements of the contract in-house when practicable; arguing that a council-owned repair service will be easier to manage, with the potential to bring addedcommunity benefits for tenants as well as increased accountability for the public and stronger employee rights.

Councillor David Gibson, Green Housing Spokesperson, said:

“Greens have long argued that with key parts of our housing contract, we should bring them in-house. We thoroughly welcome the proposal to bring the responsive repairs element of this contract in-house. This represents an important achievement for tenants and the public who also deserve a more accountable service.

“Bringing responsive repairs under council management is a good start, but we want to go further by adding in planned kitchen and bathroom works, along with a commitment to achieve as much as realistically possible in-house.

“Other Councils, such as Islington and Sheffield, have already done this and have been able to achieve better social value, better conditions for staff and accountability for tenants. Unlike the issues that have led to conflict within the Mears contract, in-house provision also grants us greater flexibility to improve the service as needed, rather than be subject to the constraints of an external contract.

“It is extremely positive that all parties agree the contracts need to be more strongly managed by the Council, but Greens believe in not-for-profit, publicly accountable provision, and we should seize this opportunity to improve the housing repairs service for tenants.”

[1] “The Future Delivery of Responsive Repairs and Empty Property Refurbishments, Planned Maintenance and Improvement Programmes and Major Capital Projects to Council Housing Stock.” http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=884&MId=9434&Ver=4
[2] Greens will propose amendments that seek to:
a) Further consider bringing kitchens and bathroom works in-house after three years;
b) Secure a commitment that the Council will continue to explore bringing in-house as much of the contract as is realistic in the future, within a sustainable timescale.
[3] Brighton and Hove Greens: “Huge Contract with Mears company should be brought ‘in-house’ say Greens.” March, 2018:https://www.brightonhovegreens.org/news/2018/03/20/greens-call-for-overhaul-of-costly-housing-repairs-contract/
[4] Inside Housing: “Islington Launches ‘In-House’ repairs after ending maintenance contract.” https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/news/islington-launches-in-house-repairs-after-ending-maintenance-contract-40791


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