The Committee received a presentation on Gas Management by Anne Bagland, the Head of Investment Finance and Safety which covered gas repairs and servicing process, the current challenges and future plans for the Service.
The following main points were noted in the presentation and in the discussion:
The council has a combined in house/subcontractor
gas repairs service in the North of the borough and a
gas contractor operating in the south of the
· Across the borough, repairs classified as urgent are completed within 24 hrs. At present the gas team has 12 operatives and 3 apprentices and the total revenue budget is £3.8 million.
· Islington carries out its annual gas safety checks for all it’s properties and the whole process commences 8 weeks before the property is deemed as non-compliant. Letters are sent out informing residents of gas servicing checks, with details to make arrangements to access the dwelling.
· In response to concerns regarding gas safety check appointments for residents and a suggestion of being flexible, members were advised that there is presently no demand for a service to be provided beyond the normal core hours and there is an issue of cost which the Service would need to consider. There are plans to introduce an ‘MOT’ style servicing which aims to profile servicing over the summer months. A longer term objective is to utilise OneServe - online servicing system which will allow residents to book and amend bookings, thereby addressing concerns regarding booking appointments.
· With regards to performance levels, the meeting was advised that customer satisfaction is high at 95% considering that all attempts are made to gain access into properties. In response to a question on how complaints are handled, the meeting was informed that the service takes each complaint seriously and lessons learnt are taken on board.
· In response to questions on forced entry into properties to carry out gas safety checks, members were reminded that this would require the Council applying to court for a warrant, however numbers are relatively low because access is usually secured prior to the property becoming non-compliant.
· In terms of future plans, the service is considering how to improve its gas boiler installation process especially as resident’s complaints tends to be around issues such as the lack of both heating and hot water for a sustained period of time.
The manager advised that although an industry wide
issue, the lack of quality, skilled and experienced engineers is
being addressed by a major recruitment drive and have in the team 3
lead engineers to help support existing operatives. The team
presently has a full complement of very experienced gas inspectors
who provide assurance around risk and safety by looking at 100% of
the annual gas certificates issued to ensure compliance with the
gas regulations. The meeting was informed of the 3 apprentices in
the team working alongside experienced staff with the hope that
being a gas safety engineer will be a chosen career for the
· In response to a question on challenges experienced by the gas repair service, the manager advised that there is a dearth of experienced gas engineers, an industry wide issue which has resulted in to a huge recruitment drive for skilled engineers by the Council.
· The service is looking at improving its management of van stock which are used by the operatives as this would ensure that the rate of first time fixes is improved and increase customer satisfaction levels.
· The manager informed Committee issues such as sickness absence and competency with staff had been addressed.
· With regards to the properties managed by PFI which will be brought back in house after the expiration of their management contract, members were informed that the service is aware and are considering what actions to take especially in terms of boiler replacements.
· In response to concerns that safety checks were not being carried out in leaseholder’s flat who reside in the same block of flat with council tenants, the manager acknowledged that the service is directed at tenanted properties and not home owners as there is no legislation that stipulates home owners should undertake gas checks.
· A suggestion on whether leaseholders could be encouraged to carry out safety checks at a lower cost especially for older and vulnerable leaseholders was noted.
· In response to a question on whether operatives were aware of the personal circumstances of the residents when carrying out repairs, the meeting was informed that all tenants provide their status when signing their tenancy agreement and also information is provided by housing Support officers and the Area Housing team and that all attempts are made to ensure that data on all residents are kept up to date.
· In response to a question on whether there was scope to take on more apprentices, the Manager informed members that employment of 3 apprentices in a team of 12 was a significant proportion of staff, however this could change if the team is enlarged however as resident safety was paramount it was important to have in place experienced gas engineers and operatives.
The Chair thanked Anne Bagland for the presentation and their responses.