At the most recent meeting of Greenwich Council’s Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel, senior officers apologised repeatedly for the failings of the housing repairs service.
The sparsely attended meeting (only three Councillors and a tenants representative were present) focused on two particular areas of failure:
- The fact it was taking a long time to reduce the 6,000 non-urgent repairs accumulated during lockdown. An attempt to utilise the private sector to add capacity to the repairs service had failed and currently over 1,500 repairs remained incomplete. While the reduction in the backlog was welcomed, one quarter of non-urgent repairs were not completed in time during this budget year (2021/22).
- The problems with answering telephone calls related to repairs. The report stated the bald fact that “Telephone performance is not where it should be” (5.5) and a table suggested around two thirds of calls to the Council’s Repairs Hotline were abandoned without ever being answered. More staff were being employed but it appeared substantial concerns remained about the system.
From my point of view, as a Councillor, I am aware far too many Council tenants struggle to get their homes repaired, something which is enormously frustrating for an unacceptable number of residents. This report made clear the problems facing the Council’s repairs service are overwhelming – residents struggle to report problems and if you do clear this hurdle, it takes far too long to complete the repairs. I really do appreciate the Council Officers apologies, but the Cabinet Member should have been present to take responsibility for a fiasco which has unfolded on his watch. The truth is the housing repairs service is falling apart and it’s going to take more than some duct tape to fix it.