“It seems to be a complete mess”
Tenants are having to pay for repairs privately as the repair backlog of North Northamptonshire Council’s housing stock grows
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By Sarah Ward
The number of outstanding housing repairs to council owned homes in Corby and Kettering has risen to almost 6,000, as tenants and their families are having to resort to paying for private tradespeople as the North unitary is failing to get repairs made.
A question asked by Labour’s councillor Anne Lee at the full council last week revealed that 4,402 of the total 5,880 repairs have not been completed within their target timescale of typically 30 days.
In a written answer the new executive member for housing Cllr Matt Binley gave some reasons for the delays.
The response said:
“The systems used do not consistently report the reasons as to why a repair may have exceeded timescale, some jobs may have multiple explanations. Not all reasons are within the control of the service and some examples of this include but are not limited to:
Tenants may cancel/rearrange appointment on a number of occasions e.g.,due to work commitments,may be away or in hospital etc
Parts ordered, awaiting delivery
No answer when trying to arrange appointments
The service is developing further proposals to address and work through the backlog and create stability in the trades aspect of the service moving forward.”
Cllr Lee told NN Journal:
“I hope that Cllr Binley is going to get a handle on it. He needs to get the full support of the executive because this does need money. It has been neglected.”
There are two different systems operated in Corby and Kettering, which is a hangover from the pre unitary days. Kettering carries its own stock of repair parts, whereas Corby would not carry stock and instead order on demand from a trade supplier.
Only homes in Kettering and Corby are owned by the authority as Wellingborough and East Northants councils handed the ownership over to housing associations several years before the former districts and boroughs in the area amalgamated last year to create the unitary council.
There are 3,947 outstanding repairs in Corby and 1,933 in Kettering. Collectively across the area the authority owns around 8,000 properties.
Earlier this month we wrote about how desperate residents facing eviction were having to wait months just to find out whether they were eligible to have a place on the council’s housing list and now repairs are a major concern for opposition councillors who are aware the issue is worsening.
Labour Cllr Lyn Buckingham represents the Lloyds ward in Corby and says one tenant she was helping had had to wait eight weeks for a necessary repair.
“The repairs service in Corby was a bit patchy before [unitary], but when you compare the backlog in Corby and Kettering you can see that Kettering’s has come down quite considerably but Corby’s hasn’t.
“I had a woman come to me a few weeks ago and we managed to get her issue sorted. She had been waiting for eight weeks and had been unable to manage her own hygiene because she had no showering facilities. They could not get a part for her shower. She was being given the run around.
“People are going private. One woman has told me it will be August before her mum gets her plumbing repair done. The toilet cistern is running constantly. They are having to use a private plumber to do it.
“We need the transformation team to start looking at housing. It is a complete mess.”
As part of the move to unitary a budget of tens of millions was put into a transformation team, made up of consultants and staff whose job it was to rearrange services once the unitary councils had begun.
NN Journal spoke to executive member for housing Cllr Matt Binley, who said he apologised for the situation and said the authority had been facing a number of challenges including a hangover from Covid and a delay on parts. The councillor has only been in post for a few weeks after Cllr Andy Mercer stood down due to health issues.
“First of all, one of the things is the disaggregation with regards to processes from the former sovereign authorities [borough councils].
“The team is now working to align processes, for example we still have two different systems of work flow for Kettering and Corby.
“Covid 19 has also had a significant effect on the team being able to carry out repairs.Teams have not been able to enter homes because of people self isolating, etc. That has significantly hampered the team.
“As a council we do wholeheartedly apologise for this situation because we are aware of the dissatisfaction from some customers.”
He also said the council, like a lot of private organisations, is struggling to secure parts because of stock shortages and longer lead times and said there were vacancies in the housing repair team. He said an officer in charge of the service was working very hard to devise a strategy to reduce the backlog and align policies across Kettering and Corby.
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