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HomeMore NewsBarnet housing arm addresses resident concerns with repair service improvements

Barnet housing arm addresses resident concerns with repair service improvements

Barnet Council’s housing arm is hoping to speed up its repairs service following a drop in resident satisfaction.

Barnet Homes, which manages the council’s housing stock, has boosted salaries and launched a recruitment drive to fill vacant roles and tackle a backlog of 4,352 repair works that have built up since the Covid-19 pandemic.

It would usually have around 2,500 jobs in progress at any one time.

A report presented to a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Monday (4th) reveals the proportion of tenants saying they were satisfied with the housing provider fell to less than two-thirds (65.1%) at the end of the last financial year – below the 75% target.

The report states that delays and poor communication relating to repairs are the two biggest drivers of dissatisfaction with the service. It adds that since the pandemic it has become “increasingly difficult” to recruit and retain high-quality tradespeople, but Barnet Homes hopes to fill the gaps in its workforce by offering “more competitive terms and conditions”.

Speaking during the meeting, cabinet member for homes and regeneration Ross Houston acknowledged there were “challenges” in repairs and recruitment “across the board in London” but added that the performance of Barnet Homes compared to similar providers had been consistently good since it was established in 2004.

The report states that an increased focus on damp and mould complaints across the sector following the death of Awaab Ishak in 2020 had led to more than 1,200 new repair orders being made.

Coming on top of the additional need for repairs and maintenance following the Grenfell Tower fire, this means the demand for repairs and maintenance operatives is now “higher than it has ever been”.

Under questioning from Labour committee member Arjun Mittra, who described the satisfaction score as a “problem”, The Barnet Group chief executive Tim Mulvenna said he believed the extra pay supplements would start to make a difference “in the next few months”.

He added: “We have also brought on board a new group of contractors […] and we expect them to have an impact in terms of repairs times and turnaround times.”

Cllr Houston also updated the committee on the council’s progress towards the Labour group’s manifesto pledge to provide 1,000 new affordable homes by 2026.

He said there were 447 homes “either ready to move into or being built” following the recent purchase of 249 homes at Colindale Gardens from developer Redrow.

The housebuilding programme is partly designed to reduce pressure on the council’s temporary accommodation budget. At the end of the last financial year, the number of households in temporary accommodation was 2,202 – up from 2,111 during the previous quarter – and could rise further amid an ongoing shortage of affordable rented accommodation.