MANAGEMENT OF PERFORMANCE AND RESOURCES COMMITTEE
16 June 2005
Barbara Dennis (Chair)
Neil Bouch Director of Housing Management
Peter Burchall Director of Property and Technical Services
Martin Poulter Area Housing Manager (West)
Deborah Ewart Neighbourhood Relations Manager
Stuart Gibson Company Administrator
Apologies for Absence
The minutes of the last meeting of the committee held on 5 May 2005
were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
10 MATTERS ARISING – PERFORMANCE – END OF YEAR RESULTS
The two indicators relating to investment programme expenditure were
11 REVIEW OF REPAIRS – ACTION PLAN
In October 2004, a Tenants Forum Sub-Group was set up to carry out
a review of the repairs service. The Sub-Group looked particularly at
the new changes set up earlier in the year, namely the four new
categories of repair, the new tenants responsibilities and rechargeable
repairs and the recently introduced appointments system. The review
forms part of a number of recommendations within the Housing
Inspection Action Plan.
In order to consult with as many tenants as possible and be able to
discuss the issues in detail, other consultation opportunities were
identified to complement the work of the Sub-Group.
366 questionnaires were completed at the Your Homes, Your Choice
event. 21 tenants and leaseholders took part in a Tenants Focus
Group. Four members of the Tenants Forum Sub-Group took part in
visits to the Repairs Call Centre and spent half a day with operatives
from the Council’s Local Environmental Services to shadow them on a
typical day to assess how the service works from a different
From these various consultations, an action plan was produced based
on the key comments and issues obtained from tenants and
leaseholders. Details of the action plan can were submitted.
RESOLVED – (i) That the contents of the action plan be noted.
(ii) That the type of repairs that can be batched be
identified in the performance report for the first
quarter of 2005/06.
(iii) That the committee be advised of diversity
information that has been captured and recorded
when contacting customers to see if they are
happy with repairs.
12 BEST VALUE REVIEW OF FACILITIES MANAGEMENT
The committee considered a report outlining two service options for
facilities management (Minute 31 – 2004/05).
To compare the services provided by the company for multi-storey
blocks, visits have been made to South Tyneside Council, Your Homes
Newcastle, Sunderland Housing Group, Manchester Council and Leeds
West Homes to look at examples of good practice.
A fundamental element of the Best Value Review process for facilities
management has been detailed involvement with residents, employees
and stakeholders to ensure a wide range of views are considered as
the company shapes the service provision within multi-storey
accommodation. These include joint visits to other organisations, focus
groups, a survey of residents that benefit from the caretaking and
concierge services and the priority research survey. Initial discussions
have taken place with trade union representatives, who have requested
further detailed proposals on the agreed option.
Details of the current concierge and caretaking services were reported.
The concierge service provides a 24-hour service to residents living in
Monk Court, Abbot Court, Redheugh Court, Regent Court and Warwick
Court from three suites based at Abbot Court, Warwick Court and
Eslington Court. The service employees 24 employees (12 full-time
and 12 part-time). In 23 blocks that do not have this service, a
caretaking service operates. The caretaker is on duty six days per
week, carrying out cleaning duties between 8am and 12 noon. They
provide an emergency service during the hours not on duty.
The service charge for 2003/04 for the concierge service was £1.17 per
week, which provided a maximum annual income of £50,602. The
weekly charge for the cleaning service in these blocks was £5.10 per
week, which provides a maximum annual income of £220,575. The
service charge for the caretaking service in 2003/04 was £5.10 per
week, which provides a maximum income of £454,665.
Option 1 is the retention of the services in their current format. This
option would not address the issue of ageing and obsolete equipment
in the existing three suites, which requires replacing and updating. The
current provider has advised that the total cost of updating and where
required, replacing equipment in the three suites, is £180,000.
Providing the concierge service from three suites also does not allow
for economies of scale to be achieved and would fail to deliver a
modernised and co-ordinated service for caretaking and concierge,
outlined in Option 12 of the Best Value Implementation Plan. This
would miss the opportunity to focus on meeting customers’ priorities
and the company would lose the opportunity to provide a consistent
service to all customers.
Option 2 proposes the provision of a consistent service for all
customers living in multi-storey accommodation. The concierge service
would be extended to all blocks, provided from one centralised location.
The service would continue to provide 24-hour cover. Tenants could
contact the service for advice or to report any problems. The service
would include surveillance by cameras and instant calls to emergency
services. Visitors would access the block by the control panel at the
main entrance. The tenant would allow access via the handset in their
flat. The concierge service could elect at any time to take a block over
and all calls would go through the concierge service. This may occur if
a block was experiencing particular problems with unauthorised entry
or during particular times of the day. The additional blocks could be
connected to the service as the programmed decent homes work is
Initial discussions with the current provider of concierge equipment
have indicated that the cost to equip a centralised concierge suite
would be £96,000 and the cost per block to connect to a concierge
suite would be £60,000, including CCTV equipment. These costs are
only an indication and the technical complexity of providing this service
to all multi-storey blocks and the range of companies in the market
place would require specialist assistance to progress this option further.
The staff structure for a centralised suite would depend on how the
service was to be delivered. Entry to blocks could be actively
controlled all or part of the day or at particular locations. The level of
CCTV coverage would also influence staffing levels required.
However, providing the service from one centralised suite instead of
three could free up some staff resources from the existing concierge
structure to enhance a revised caretaking role.
This option would present additional opportunities to provide out of
hours services such as emergency repair reporting facility and anti-
social behaviour reporting for all residents across the borough.
In addition to extending the concierge service to all blocks, a new
expanded role for the caretaking service is proposed. The post would
be non-residential, working from 9am to 5pm. They would work as part
of a team covering a number of blocks in a locality, providing a cleaning
service and completing minor repairs in residents homes. They would
also report any incidents of anti-social behaviour or breaches of
tenancy. Out of hours emergencies would be answered by caretakers
on call. Existing staff working on a rota system would provide this.
Additional resources from the proposed changes to the concierge
service could supplement the new team. Part of the new team’s focus
would also be on tackling environmental issues in the immediate
locality of the blocks.
The Board has earlier agreed in principle the transfer of the handyman
service from the Council to the company, as part of the review of the
Service Level Agreement for Environmental Maintenance. The
handyman role is an additional resource, which could supplement the
work of the caretaking team. This option would focus on meeting
residents’ priority of a clean and well-maintained environment outside
their home, which was the highest priority in the Central area where
there is the greatest concentration of multi-storey blocks.
Staffing resources would need to be reviewed for the facilities
management team to ensure that residents have a single point of
contact for issues relating to the fabric of the building and the
management of the service, ensuring service standards are delivered
in accordance to customers’ priorities.
RESOLVED – (i) That the progressing of option 2 for the provision
of concierge and caretaking services be
approved, subject to the committee receiving a
further report with detailed costs.
(ii) That the company engage with a consultant to
assist in progressing option 2 in relation to the
(iii) That the Chief Executive be authorised to consult
trade union representatives to develop the
detailed service options and costs.
13 MODERNISATION OF HOUSING SERVICES
The committee considered a report giving an update on the
modernisation of housing services, including services provided from the
local housing office network (Board Meeting – Minute 4).
Business monitoring exercises have been undertaken to assess
customer contact with housing office and estate officer activity. These
include a series of public meetings and customer and stakeholder
meetings. This information, together with Disability Discrimination Act
(DDA) compliance costs for offices, the results of the priority research
survey, employee priorities, the customer satisfaction survey, the costs
of making suitable the existing office network, office locations, the
impact of right to buy, an analysis of current cash collection transaction
costs, strategic fit with the Council’s Customer Service Strategy and
external learning have all been used to inform the review. Details of all
of these were reported.
The results show that customer priorities are focused on service
delivery in area such as repairs, estate management and responding to
anti-social behaviour. The vast majority of customer contacts are made
to the company via the telephone. The company needs to consider
therefore how best it can understand fully the requirements of
customers, answer enquiries at the first point of contact and manage
customer service activity in a comprehensive way.
Results demonstrate that the number of telephone contacts made by
customers for repairs has diminished. With the introduction of the
telephone free phone to report repairs, this figure is expected to fall
further. In addition, area offices received 2,000 less visits in the period
April 2004 compared to visits made to offices in October 2002. The
majority of customer visits to the housing network are made in
connection with making rent payments.
The results identified that offices experience high volumes of phone
calls regarding letting queries. The modernisation of housing office
services and review of the housing office network will need to be
aligned with the implementation of choice based lettings, which is
timetabled for April 2006.
There are significant cost implications linked to updating the existing
housing office network to comply with DDA requirements (£550,000)
and achieve suitability and sufficiency (£417,750).
A cost benefit analysis which takes into account the results of the
business monitoring exercise, to comply with DDA requirements and
the need to achieve consistency in the area office network to meet
suitability and sufficiency requirements highlights a number of offices
which require high investment while having relatively low levels of
business activity. These can be summarised as follows: -
In the West area, Gateshead @ Blaydon offers a modern
customer service point that is well used.
Highfield and Ryton are part time offices that have been assessed
as not being technically viable to improve to meet the suitability
and sufficiency requirements. The number of rent transactions at
Ryton are the lowest in the borough and cost per rent transaction
high at £1.38 per rent transaction.
In the Inner West area, it is apparent that the existing buildings in
Whickham, Dunston and Teams are in need of extensive
expenditure to meet suitability and sufficiency requirements and
DDA compliance. There is a need to review the portfolio of
housing offices to establish service points that will meet the
requirements of customers and provide a modern and efficient
housing service. This will require some amalgamation of housing
office services into one or more locations. The Teams office
provides the lowest transaction costs in the housing office
network, reflecting both the size of the team and the contacts
made by customers.
The rent payment office at Dunston Activity Centre operates on a
part time basis with relatively low transaction numbers.
The location of the Central area housing team based in the Civic
Centre offers customers a modern customer service point that is
Sheriff Hill has been assessed as not being technically viable to
improve to meet the suitability and sufficiency requirements.
In the South area, Gateshead @ Birtley offers a modern customer
service point that is well used.
Springwell is a part time office and has been assessed as requiring
over £160,000 of expenditure to meet both the suitability and
sufficiency requirements and in order to comply with DDA. In
addition, this office has a very high transaction cost per
contact/visit of over £28 per transaction.
Low Fell office offers a customer service point located close to
amenities and has opportunities for improvement both in terms of
suitability and sufficiency costs and DDA compliance.
Wrekenton office offers a customer service point that is located
close to amenities and has opportunities for improvement both in
terms of suitability and sufficiency costs and DDA compliance.
Initial design work has taken place in order to provide a modern
customer service point with works programmed for August 2005.
Business monitoring costs are relatively low and this office has
office space on the first floor to accommodate additional
In the East area, Felling office offers a customer service point
located close to amenities and has opportunities for improvement
both in terms of suitability and sufficiency costs and DDA
compliance. Initial design work has taken place in order to provide
a modern customer service point with works programmed for
Old Fold office is a part time office with 2.5 FTE employees serving
relatively few customers. There are opportunities for improvement
of this office both in terms of suitability and sufficiency costs and
DDA compliance, however there is a low level of business activity.
Leam Lane office is timetabled to move into new premises at
Gateshead @ Leam, which will offer a modern service point for the
customers from August 2005.
The opening hours of housing offices are not standard across the
network. Delivering services in this way is unsustainable for a number
of reasons, details of which were reported.
The cashiering service is currently delivered through eight full time
housing offices, one part time housing office at Ryton and one payment
office at Dunston Activity Centre. This service is unsustainable for a
number of reasons, details of which were reported.
The following is proposed: -
Proposal 1 - Housing office network
By July 2005, develop with customers a clear programme, which
sets out the phased introduction of a rationalised, effective
housing service operating from fewer service outlets with
consistent office hours for implementation by April 2006.
Proposal 2- Customer services
By April 2006, the Customer Service Manager develop a
dedicated team of employees within the housing office network to
provide excellent customer facing frontline services.
A clear project plan be developed by September 2005 with
customers and employees taking account of the significant
people, change, communication and training programme required
to improve services.
Proposal 3 - Customer Relationship Management
By April 2006, access and monitoring of service requests and
service standards be developed via a range of channels, including
Customer Relationship Management technology. As part of this
development the company consider with customers the
opportunities to extend telephone contact opening hours for
housing management services.
Proposal 4 – Income collection
The company seek to procure a payment option by August 2005
which offers customers a wider choice of cash payment outlets.
The payment option procured should allow for payments to be
made at evenings and weekends.
The company phase out standing order as a payment option and
take active steps to convert these payers to other options but
primarily direct debit.
The resource implications of proposals 2 and 3 will need to be
identified in order to inform the development of these projects. The
procurement of the payment option in proposal 4 would generate
savings of over £5,252 per year on transaction costs and be self-
financing over a maximum of three years. At the same time, this
payment option would increase the number of outlets available to
customers to pay cash and extend the hours that customers can pay to
include weekends and evenings.
Linking the procurement of the payment option to the programme to
review the housing network will generate further efficiencies. Annual
estimated savings on transaction costs equate to a minimum of
Further efficiencies will be generated by the phasing out of temporary
housing management assistants located in the area office network
linked to the review of the housing office network. Estimated savings
equate to a minimum of £117,551.24 annually.
RESOLVED – (i) That the report be noted and the proposals
outlined above be approved.
(ii) That the report be referred to the Area Boards for
(iii) That the committee receive a report on the
resource implications to establish a company
contact centre and Customer Relationship
(iv) That the committee receive a report in July 2005
on a programme developed with the customers
that sets out the phased introduction of a
rationalised, effective and focused housing office
service, which provides consistent office hours.
(v) That an initial discussion take place with the trade
union in June 2005 on the content of the report.
(vi) That the company seek with the Council to
procure a payment option by August 2005 which
will offer customers a wide selection of payment
outlets and the ability to pay at evening and
14 TENANT REWARD SCHEME AND DECORATION ALLOWANCE
The committee received a report on the review of the Tenant Reward
Scheme (HomeBonus) and an update on the decoration allowance
Housing Quality Network (HQN) carried out an external assessment of
the HomeBonus scheme on 30 March 2005. This included interviews
with employees and customers and was based upon elements of the
Rewards Exchange Assessment Toolkit, which reflects guidance given
to organisations wishing to introduce a reward scheme and in using it
to assess an existing scheme, explores not only the objectives but the
values and standards, targets for change, people, risks and
opportunities, scope, rewards and systems and costs and benefits.
Details of initial comments and positive signs identified by HQN were
reported. The following areas of improvement were identified by HQN:
Explore the provision of a comprehensive brochure with
manufacturers images of products.
Review the range of choices and the value for money of those
Restating major works schemes qualify as Home Bonus
Schemes. One interviewee questioned whether ‘rising damp’ work
should be included.
Refine the management information system including the:
information on choices and
information where customers convert HomeBonus points into
Standard briefing to take place on Home Bonus scheme prior to
each scheme commencing to ensure staff are fully conversant
with scheme objectives, definitions and the relevant processes
Introduce forecasting for reductions in rent arrears at the launch of
Introduce targets for scheme completions – comparing refusal
levels when implementing improvement works
An assessment of the efficiency gains as a result of the
significantly reduced refusal rate is underway
Analysis of the scheme highlights that the total cost of the HomeBonus
scheme for 2004/05 was £149,190. Income generated from the
scheme totalled £24,182. 89% of tenants participating in the scheme
state that HomeBonus was a good way of rewarding tenants. 298
tenants qualified for the scheme on the eligible date and for these
people the fact that HomeBonus recognises that there will be some
unavoidable inconvenience to tenants and their families while major
work is underway is relevant. The average HomeBonus award equates
to £363. 112 tenants who originally did not qualify for the scheme on
the eligibility date subsequently qualified at a cost, which equates to
HomeStyle decoration vouchers are now available for customers who
opt for them under the HomeBonus scheme and to new tenants whose
property has been assessed as being eligible under the decoration
allowance scheme. The void management team, which was
established in May 2005, controls assessment of property eligibility for
HomeStyle. Prior to that estate officers assessed the eligibility of
properties for decoration allowances. Since the launch of HomeStyle
the number of partner suppliers in Gateshead has increased to seven,
with interest expressed by a further store. This level of interest by
suppliers has ensured choice for customers who do not have the ability
to shop around for goods.
Expenditure in 2003/04 on decoration allowances and materials for
new tenants prior to the introduction of HomeStyle was £124,000. The
monthly allowance issued was £10,333. Expenditure in 2004/05 on
decoration allowances and HomeStyle vouchers for new tenants was
£91,143. The monthly allowance issued was £7,011.
The introduction of HomeStyle has simplified the allowance scheme for
customers and introduced greater control on the award of allowances.
This management of the HomeStyle service has had an impact on
reduced expenditure on decoration allowances with the benefit to the
company of discounts being made available from suppliers paid on
RESOLVED – (i) That the report be noted.
(ii) That the report be referred to the Area Boards for
(iii) That an internal review of the HomeBonus
scheme be undertaken to consider the suggested
improvements and undertake further work on the
issue of cost/benefit of the scheme including.
15 DATE AND TIME OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the committee will be held on Thursday 28 July
2005 at 2pm in the Conference Room, Suite 5 Baltic Business Centre,
Saltmeadows Road, Gateshead.
16 EXCLUSION OF THE PRESS AND PUBLIC
RESOLVED – That the press and public be excluded from the
remaining business in accordance with Category 1 of
the company’s Access to Information Rules.
17 REVIEW OF ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR MANAGEMENT
The committee considered a report that sets out a number of proposals
that will support a review of the management of anti-social behaviour
Northumbria University has undertaken a value for money evaluation of
the Blizzard project, which operates in the South area and is currently
funded mainly through Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF) and
Building Safer Communities Funding (BSCF). In addition, Northumbria
Police mainstream funds and HRA funds support staffing and day-to-
day running costs. Both NRF and BSCF funding will expire in March
Focus groups with residents across the borough, the customer
satisfaction survey, the priority research survey and external learning
have also informed the review. The customer satisfaction survey
highlighted that the top three categories of anti-social behaviour were
youth disorder, vandalism and litter and rubbish in the street. The
priority research survey highlighted that a clean and well maintained
environment outside the home and anti-social behaviour dealt with
effectively were high priorities for tenants and leaseholders.
Analysis of the out of hours service provided by Blizzard demonstrates
that 90% of the calls to the service are between 5pm and 8pm. In
relation to the type of calls received, approximately 75% are about
youth disorder issues. The neighbourhood relations team (NRT) has
responsibility for processing police vetting checks and suspensions
from the housing register, relating to criminal or anti-social behaviour.
Suspension cases are currently managed by neighbourhood relations
officers (NROs), who rotate this responsibility on a quarterly basis. In
addition, they provide an appointment system and drop in cover at
Gateshead Civic Centre for applicants who want to discuss their
housing application, where suspension or vetting is relevant.
The Anti-Social Behaviour Strategy sets out the company’s
commitment to responding effectively to anti-social behaviour (ASB)
and focuses on four key themes: prevention; education/Interventions;
enforcement and community support and engagement.
Opportunities to replicate the Blizzard approach have been
implemented across all neighbourhood management areas including
recording of low-level ASB, problem solving targeted work around
themes and hot spots, focussing on particular issues and ASB service
standards across the whole service.
In order to respond to the recommendations of the research and
ensure proactive case management, additional resources are required
within the NRT in order to ensure the company is able to dedicate NRO
resource to each of the neighbourhood management areas.
The work, which is currently undertaken by the NRT in relation to
vetting and suspension of applicants on the housing register, is work
that prevents NROs focusing on ASB case management. A dedicated
resource to undertake this work would allow the NRO to focus entirely
on ASB case management and would support the monitoring of service
standards and performance in this area. The role of the NRO could
also be expanded to incorporate out of hours working across all
neighbourhood areas. This would enable the company to deliver out of
hours services until 8pm, offering advice to residents and carrying out
proactive and targeted work.
The following is proposed: -
To create an additional NRO post. This will allow for expansion of
the team and provide a dedicated NRO in each neighbourhood
ensuring the company delivers a consistent approach across all
To re-grade the nine NRO posts from Scale 6 to SO1. This will
reflect the additional duties of out of hours working. The out of
hours work will be managed on a rota basis, until 8pm. This will
primarily involve dealing with out of hours telephone enquiries,
although it is expected that NROs will be involved in targeted
partnership working and responding to complaints. In addition, the
NROs will have responsibility for supporting estate officers to
manage ASB cases within the local offices. The proposal will
involve ending the vehicle hire arrangements currently operating
in the South in the Blizzard project, with resultant savings.
Establishment of a new Suspensions and Monitoring Officer post
at Scale 6. This will provide a dedicated resource to manage
police vetting checks, suspension cases and to assist with
monitoring and producing reports in relation to ASB cases. This
will allow the NROs to focus entirely on ASB case management.
To ensure there is a consistent approach across the borough, the
company aims to launch the borough wide out of hours service up
until 8pm from 1 September 2005.
Following implementation of the proposals, it will be necessary to
further review the structure of the NRT in line with the modernisation of
housing office services, which is scheduled to be implemented from
The cost of implementing the review of ASB management will need to
be the subject of a bid for additional resources from the Council, which
has set aside a contingency for the developments it would wish the
company to implement.
The trade union supports the proposals in principle. Further detailed
discussions with employees on the proposals are underway and the
results of these discussions will be reported to the Personnel
Committee on 7 July 2005.
RESOLVED – (i) That the report be noted.
(ii) That a further report be submitted to the
Personnel Committee on 7 July 2005 to consider
the proposed establishment changes.