A forensic review of housing in the wake of the Regina Road repairs scandal has uncovered the considerable extent of ‘dysfunction’ within the service but the response to address these deficiencies are yet to yield much in the way of “tangible improvement, ” a report has revealed.
Croydon’s Improvement and Assurance Panel’s report dated 22 November 2022, was published today (Thursday) on the government web site as part of documentation supporting a proposed intervention in the running of Croydon Council.
The report is critical of council’s response to addressing the shocking deficiencies in the council’s housing services exposed by ITV in its reports in to the Regina Road repairs scandal.
It says: “The council’s overall response to address these deficiencies has been too slow, with interim postholders occupying key positions for much of this time and not initiating many of the necessary changes.”
They do go on to say though that the operation of the Service is now led by a new Housing Director Sumsita Sen who is undertaking a forensic review of the service’s processes and procedures . This has uncovered the extent of ‘dysfunction’ within the service, which is ‘considerable’.
The reports says: “This dysfunction may be characterised by, amongst other things, the absence of accurate data on the fundamentals of the service, the poor level of maintenance of the stock, little knowledge of stock values, ineffective management of voids, the lack of specialist knowledge within operational teams and a culture which neither supports responding to tenants nor accepts the need to undertake change. “
In response to this, the report identifies that the Housing Director, is beginning to put in place the foundations of a more responsive and effective service, commissioning a full appraisal of housing assets, enhancing performance in the repairs service, and improving the management of void properties and arrears.
She is also tackling high-profile issues such as project planning for the replacement of poor-quality housing blocks, such as in Regina Road.
However, the reports states: “This new sense of purpose and direction has, however, yet to yield much in the way of tangible improvement.”
The report raises the concerns that the: “forthcoming replacement of the repairs contractor poses sizeable operational and financial risks. “
It identifies for praise the council’s response to the accidental fire that occurred in early October at Sycamore House, an emergency accommodation complex in Thornton Heath, which affected more than 50 households. It was describe as ‘both rapid and comprehensive’, effectively locating alternative accommodation for many residents.
Both the Panel and the chair of the Council’s Housing Improvement Board have recognised the step change in leadership demonstrated in the response to this incident by both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor Lynne Hale (pictured who is the responsible Cabinet Member for housing) and by the Director and other officers from across the Council who were involved.
They add though that the ‘recovery of this service is, however, a long-term project and the risk of instances of failure and of sub-optimal responses will exist throughout this time. ‘