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Housing director grilled over low satisfaction ratings for residents’ repairs

Hackney Town Hall.

Hackney’s director of housing services was put in the hot seat at a recent council meeting over the level of residents’ dissatisfaction with repairs, which was called out by councillors as “really not good enough”.

Around 25 per cent of residents reported being unhappy with repairs completed on the first visit for 2018/19, while 37 per cent were left dissatisfied with repairs carried out by a contractor.

While satisfaction tracked upwards throughout the year, housing services director Ajman Ali admitted that the council needed to do more to improve their performance.

Ali said: “One of the things I’ve said to [this committee] is that performance in the housing services is not as good as it could be. I wanted to achieve further improvements by the end of my first year, and the trajectory is going in the right direction.

“I’m pleased to say that that was what the outcome was. We had a lot less number of red [signs] than the previous year. This particular measure is around customer satisfaction, and it is slightly off target.

“We need to improve a bit more in terms of the quality of the workmanship, and do a bit more around that.”

Councillors sitting on the audit committee took the opportunity to call for the repairs service to be brought back in-house, pointing to the significantly lower satisfaction rate with external contractors.

The Town Hall recently ended a major repairs deal with Morgan Sindall after an investigation found “stark examples of poor behaviour” and “aggressive pricing” by the company.

Cllr Yvonne Maxwell (Lab, Hoxton West) said: “Isn’t this showing us that we need to be looking more at bringing repairs back in-house from contractors? Our casework often shows that it’s the contractors that are the problem.

“So much effort can go into managing contractors that we might as well go out and do it ourselves. The amount of time and money spent basically micromanaging contractors, we shouldn’t be doing it – they shuld be getting on and doing the work.”

Cllr Nick Sharman (Lab, Hackney Wick), who chaired the committee, added: “I think this is an important measure, after all this is how people feel about quality, not just whether the repair has been done. It’s an important test of our service. Nearly one in two people saying that our contractors’ jobs are inadequate is really not good enough.”

Ali accepted that the Town Hall has a “real issue” with contractors, and that the Town Hall are aiming to improve on contract management.

Some contractors with external companies are set to last up to five more years, though the Town Hall’s new procurement strategy laying out how more work can be taken in “over a period of time”.

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