9 Sep 2009

Serious housing failures

Last night at Council councillors had the chance to hear about the third report into housing highlighting serious inadequacies at Ebley Mill last night. The policy seminar was to provide feedback to district councillors and tenant representatives ahead of the cabinet meeting on Thursday to debate the report and at a special council meeting on Wednesday 23rd September.

Photo: Ebley Mill pic on wall in the Mill.

As the Councils press release says:

The investigation, was one of three commissioned by the council's chief executive, David Hagg, following the discovery of a potential for a £1.2million overspend on its housing account back in April. The overspend has since been confirmed as £873,000. The Audit Commission report looked at the overall performance of the council's housing service whilst the two previous investigations by KPMG and Tribal looked in detail at the financial management of the housing service, and the future options for council housing in the district.

Cllr Frances Roden, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing for Stroud District Council, said: 'The Audit Commission report, like the KPMG report, makes sober reading, but when we found out about the overspend we wanted to take a thorough look at all aspects of the housing service - and that's why we instigated the three comprehensive investigations. The report does have some positives, but the negatives outweigh them significantly.'

The report is split into sections covering areas including access and customer focus, diversity, asset management, repairs and maintenance, gas servicing, income management, resident involvement and value for money. It shows the strengths and weaknesses for each area and provides recommendations for an improvement plan.

Cllr Roden added: 'We wanted to identify all areas of weakness so that we could fix problems properly. Whilst we have already been working on improvements, the information from the three reports will allow us to put together an informed plan to ensure that our housing service's future is based on firm, concrete foundations, so that we can deliver a focused housing service for our tenants.'

Indeed as I sat and listened it was very sobering and depressing - it feels like some folk have been asleep on the job to let it get to this point - and as blog readers will know I do not criticise in this blog lightly - indeed this blog is not the place for that discussion - I want to hear more and gain a more full understanding of how this situation could have arisen. I welcome the Council's openness at this point and trust that this whole process will lead to significant improvements but at the moment I remain shocked at the extent of the failings.

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