Council’s housing repairs backlog grows
North Northamptonshire Council has set up a dedicated project team to get the repair mountain down
By Sarah Ward
Two years on from the pandemic and the backlog of repairs of council homes in North Northamptonshire has continued to grow.
As reported by NN Journal last June, the authority had an outstanding backlog of 5,880 repairs across its 8,000 housing stock. However a report to the authority’s scrutiny commission which meets next week has shown that rather than reduce, the backlog has grown to 5,988 outstanding jobs, with the number of repairs in the Kettering area growing considerably from 1,933 to 2,619.
The report indicates the pandemic as being the primary reason for the huge backlog, pointing out that only emergency repairs were carried out during the pandemic. It also says that there have been no extra resources available to clear the backlog.
Now in an effort to finally get a grip on the situation the authority has taken on a new team of four multi skilled workers, a surveyor and an administrator to get the department on track and ensure its tenants are not living with housing issues.
The authority has taken £900,000 out of its housing revenue account to put towards the backlog project and says its hopes to erase the backlog within a year.
However the report includes a caveat which says:
“We aim to clear the backlog over the next year. However, we will need to establish if this aim is achievable as we progress with the project. The information we have on outstanding jobs and estimated costs will be tracked to establish if we have sufficient budget to clear all outstanding jobs.”
The authority only has housing stock in Corby and Kettering, as the former borough and district councils in East Northamptonshire and Wellingborough decided to sell theirs off several years ago. However, despite being two years down the line since the new council was set up, the two areas are still operating different systems and using different methods and performance targets.
Currently the authority carries out 1,300 repairs a month, with the majority of these classed as emergency repairs - which need to be done within 24 hours. Around 90 per cent of non-emergency repairs are not completed within the target. (The repair times are different between the two towns. Corby has a 30 day repair time while Kettering’s varies from seven to 90 days, depending on the repair needed).
The backlog repair project will be carried out on an estate-by -estate basis with residents receiving a red card and their repair cancelled if they miss two appointments. They would then need to log the repair again.
Leader of the Labour opposition Cllr John McGhee said the authority has been too slow on getting on top of the repairs.
“They have failed many residents,” he said.
“I spend more time dealing with residents trying to get repairs done, than I do anything else. The council may not say that a leaking tap or a broken washing machine is an emergency, but to an elderly woman, or a single parent, it is. Leaking taps cost money.
“I don’t think the pandemic is a good enough excuse. We need to properly invest in our housing stock and I’m glad they intend to do so, as it has been a poor response up until now.”
The report also gives an overview of the stock the authority owns. In total it currently has 8,085 homes with just over 40 per cent of the stock being built between in the post war period 1945 and 1964. There are 4,624 homes in Corby, with a third (36 per cent) being three bedroom houses.
In Kettering just over 40 percent of its 3,656 homes are either one or two bedroom flats. Altogether the unitary authority owns 164 bedsits across the two areas and about 1000 bungalows.
A recent audit by the council’s internal audit team also gave the housing repairs service a limited assurance rating. Auditors found that despite being one housing department the authority was continuing to run in the previous confines of the former borough councils.
It found that Corby was operating one system and the Kettering area another.
“There also remains a number of inconsistencies in the approach taken to delivering the repairs services at each locality, which is exacerbated by the fact that two separate systems continue to be operated.”
Read our story from last year about the issues within the department
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