Tom Irvine, Partners for Improvement, was present for the meeting and made a verbal presentation to the Committee
During consideration the following main issues were made –
· Partners stated that they had been invited to the Committee to discuss 3 areas – Activities, Performance and Challenges
· Noted that L.B.Islington has 2 PFI contracts with Partners - PFI 1 and PFI 2 and manages over 6000 street properties on behalf of the Council
· The homes inherited from the Council were street properties in poor condition and it was necessary to bring these up to decent homes standard and kitchens, bathrooms and boilers had been installed. Partners carry out 1600 responsive repairs per month and other repairs such as major works. There is also a cyclical maintenance team and Partners collects rent and service charges
· Partners also apply for court injunctions and evictions and have staff dealing with tenancy changes and receive 7000 telephone contacts per month
· There is a Home Ownership team and a street engagement team, who engage residents and Partners wished to thank those residents who had engaged with them. There are about 400 items of correspondence dealt with each month. This includes a total of 11 enquiries received from Council Members.
· Partners support the Fairer Together agenda and also support local communities such as with the Xmas Party and a Cinema Club
· In relation to performance there are regular meetings with Councillor Ward and Council officers to monitor performance. PFI 1 and PFI 2 have clearly defined P.I.’s that need to be reported and challenged by the Council
· The Council are able to propose changes to the indicators that Partners report
· Challenges include – Fire Safety – an assessment has to be made of the communal areas however the Council is responsible for some areas of Fire Safety including the current programme to install inter-linked fire detection and warning systems, emergency lighting and fire doors.
· Communal areas must be kept safe and clear on the advice of the London Fire Brigade and fire safety experts. Arrangements were being made with tenants to copy keys where Partners did not have these to access communal areas. Partners asked for Councillor support for these essential policies
· Partners managed street properties and these are often not well insulated and hard to keep warm and despite fitting new boilers this remained a challenge for residents
· Partners were currently in consultation with the Council on the arrangements for a handover of the PFI 2 contract. The challenge is to ensure that there is a joined up approach to ensure that different parts of the service give the best outcomes for tenants, and it is recognised that more can be done. Partners did review complaints to ascertain how improvements can be made
· Partners stated that they wished to deliver a good service and would work with tenants and the Council to achieve a smooth transition for residents
· The challenge is to ensure there is a joined up approach to ensure that different parts of the service give the best outcomes for residents, and it is recognised that more could be done. Partners review complaints monthly to ascertain how improvements can be made
· Partners stated that they are committed to delivering the requirements of the contracts and a good service to residents. Partners asked Councillors to work with Partners for the good of the community and residents
· The Committee noted a number of complaints expressed by members of the public present and Partners stated that they would take a note of complaints made and follow these up. Partners explained that they would not comment on individual cases at the meeting as it they did not know the background it would not be right to discuss individual personal information at a public meeting
· A Member enquired the value of the contract that Partners had with Rydon for repair works to Partner properties. It was stated that this was contractual information but Partners stated that this was contractual information and the Council publishes information about its payments to Partners
· Reference was made to the fact that scaffolding had been erected 5 weeks prior to works starting. It was stated that health and safety and site inspections and surveys to specify the work had to take place prior to works commencing, plus any leaseholder consultations etc.
· A Member stated that it is important that Partners learnt from failures and it is important to address complaints to ensure that lessons could be learnt. Partners stated that they were committed to doing this and senior management review complaints each month
· A Member commented that the number of Partners complaints upheld by the Housing Ombudsman was higher in comparison to the Council.
· Rydon was contracted to carry out repair services for Partners. In response to a question about the role of Rydon at Grenfell, Partners expressed deep sympathy for the victims and their families but were unable to comment on the specifics of this issue.
· Partners stated that completion of repairs first time is not a PI that Partners are required to report on, and the Council requested different measures of repairs performance in its contracts, however it did try to complete as many repairs first time as possible. It has implemented an automated van stock monitoring to ensure that operatives have parts for common repairs
· A Member referred to a case relating to a break-in at a Partners property which is still outstanding for repair works. The Member stated that she had been under the impression that Partners had dealt with this when she had been in contact with them. Partners stated that they would investigate this case following the meeting. Partners stated that they would give a commitment to ensure that all Councillor enquiries were updated each month and they were kept informed of progress
· Reference was made to examples of Rydon painting over windows and the risks associated with this. Partners stated that they had snagging/quality inspections in place however if there were properties that were felt to need inspecting they would be willing to do this
· Reference was also made to a flat that had been flooded on a number of occasions by allowing a bath to overflow and that a shut off valve should have been fitted to stop this occurring in the future but had not been. Partners stated that if details were provided following the meeting they would discuss this.
· Dr. Potter, Chair of the Islington Leaseholders Association stated that Partners had been invited on a number of occasion to Leaseholder Association meetings but had declined these invitations. Partners stated that they had not been available to attend, however they would be willing to attend if there was a clear agenda and ample notice given of the meeting.
· The Chair stated that the PFI contract with Partners was £75m and that this equated to £12000 per unit
· The Chair commented that he was aware of a proposed eviction where necessary documentation had allegedly been lost in transit. It was stated that this would be reviewed.
· Dr. Potter referred to the fact that management fees imposed by Partners are 28.25% and those imposed by the Council 11% and enquired as to the wide disparity between these. Partners stated that the management fee costs may not be directly comparable, however leaseholder repair costs were capped at £10k per 5 year period. Partners confirmed the risk and profit charge is 3.29% and leaseholders were also charged for preliminaries, Islington based staff costs, site set up, welfare facilities, and Head Office overheads, such as HR, Health and Safety, Finance and Accounts.
· A Member of the Public stated that Partners annual service charges had risen by 50% recently. Partners stated that there had been an increase but this had been due to a freeze on increasing management fees for a previous number of years
· In response to a question as to the increases in cost of scaffolding and whether this is audited it was stated Partners were willing to look into this with the Council
· In response to a question as to charging for window replacement it was stated that the Council and Partners were looking into this to ascertain if a common approach could be taken
· Reference was made as to whether there were penalty clauses in the Partner contract and that there had been a recent case where a resident had been put in danger by neighbours and Partners had not taken relevant action. Partners confirmed that there are penalty clauses in the contract but said that this case had been reviewed by the Council and it had been found that Partners had not been at fault. Partners did meet regularly with the Council to review cases and to take appropriate action, if necessary
· In response to a question it was stated that Partners did have an ASB team which is well resourced
· A Member of the Public stated that as a deaf person he had found it very difficult to communicate with Partners, and his e mails had not been responded to for a considerable period of time and that he had had to contact his MP to get action taken. Partners responded that they were surprised that this had been the case as they had a closely monitored KPI on responding to emails but they would look into this.
(a) That Partners be requested to investigate the complaints raised during the meeting
(b) That the commitment that Partners will update Councillors in relation to progress on their enquiries each month be noted
(c) That the costs of scaffolding be investigated by Partners and the Council to ensure an adequate audit of costs is carried out
(d) That the commitment for Partners to attend a future meeting of the Leaseholder Association, providing a specified agenda and the invitation to the meeting is received in a sufficient timescale be noted
(e) That Councillor Debono provide details of the case referred to concerning a resident who had no heating/hot water to Partners for investigation
(f) That details of the increase in annual service charges, referred to above, and the reasons for the disparity with the Council management fee, if any, be circulated to Members of the Committee and the Chair of the Islington Leaseholder Association
(g) That the Partners statement that the Council publishes information about its payments to Partners in its accounts, and any payments relating to contracts could be investigated
The Chair thanked Tom Irvine for attending