Repairs, cyclical maintenance and Qualifying Long Term Agreements.
Third report back on the February 19 negotiations between the Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents and the Executive Team of NHG.
The Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents met with representatives of the executive team of NHG on 19 February.
We had three people on our side – two members of the Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents and the Chair of the UNITE housing workers branch as an external observer.
For NHG, Carl Byrne, Group Director of Housing and Jeremy Stibbe, Group Director of Regeneration and Strategic Asset Management attended.
After this meeting we wrote to Carl Byrne, on 3 March, setting out the issues on which we had agreed – and those which were still in dispute or which we had not the time to discuss at the meeting. Carl Byrne replied in a letter which arrived on 29 March.
(You will find the two letters attached to the first post in the ‘Negotiations’ drop down menu called, ‘Rents. First report back on the February 19 negotiations between the Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents and the Executive Team of NHG.’)
This report is the third of six report backs we are publishing on various aspects of the negotiations We are in the process of arranging general meetings for residents across NHG to discuss these negotiations and consider how to carry forward issues which are of concern to residents (which may not have appeared in these negotiations).
Repairs and cyclical maintenance issues
1. The procedure for ending maintenance/repair contracts including Qualifying Long Term Agreements (QLTAs) (see point 1.3 in both letters)
We raised the issue of ending contacts with failing contractors. The whole process of QLTAs seems to create continuing problems for residents as contractors seem to get a huge contract and then charge large sums for cyclical maintenance work in particular.
During the negotiations NHG said that as a new organisation, it would require new service agreements and that NHG wanted to use a series of new contractors in the new service model. NHG also said that the agreement with Capita ended about a year ago, but that NHH had an agreement with Wates which is still in place. Jeremy Stibbe said that NHH had only two QLTAs and GHA, one. Kier delivered a repairs service for some 7,000 homes but that directly employed NHG staff did some 75% of the repairs.
NHG response: NHG argued that are required to abide by the public procurement regulations when procuring works contracts above £4.2m.
We obviously did not make a clear point here. We were raising the whole issue of using QLTAs in the first place – not what ‘safeguards’ were in place.
They said that NHG is in the process of negotiating new contracts for gas services and catering for Care and Support services for July 2019 and April 2019.
NHG argue that they use these large contracts with large contractors like Kier because “the initial set-up costs of large value contracts can be substantial, with processes taking many months to complete. By establishing QLTA’s these costs can be offset and reduce having to procure a new contract every 12 months.”
Rather ominously they also say that “A greater interest from the market is received for these tenders and competitive prices are obtained for longer contract periods.” In other words these contracts are hugely profitable for the firms that get them.
However NHG did appear to promise the savings would come through to residents, “In the past residents have complained that they don’t see the value for money in these contracts reflected in their service charges. This is something we’ve identified as an area for improvement in the Resident Promise.”
This means that the issue of large scale contracts, for much of the cyclical and maintenance work particularly, is still something we need to discuss in our meetings.
Perhaps in those cases in which a QLTA contractor is being used our side should be seeking a rebate on cyclical maintenance costs to share the savings with NHG.
2. That the cyclical maintenance programme be disclosed to residents (see point 5.1 in both letters)
The cyclical maintenance programme is in chaos – particularly in Genesis properties. We argued that, as a minimum, NHG should make the entire programme available as a first step to sorting it out.
NHG Response: During the negotiating meeting, NHG said that the programme was available to be looked at, but that it was not in a good enough state to allow it to be disclosed.
In their letter of 29 March NHG agreed that they had failed: ‘We know that we have not always delivered cyclical works in appropriate times in the past.”
NHG further promises in their letter of 29 March that: “A new NHG Asset Standard will be completed this summer, which will set how buildings will be included for cyclical works going forwards. The standard will acknowledge planning must be based on condition and contractual agreements to carry out works.”
3. That external reviews of repairs and maintenance work be disclosed to residents (see point 5.2 in both letters)
We are aware that there have been a number of external consultants brought in to try and work out why the repairs and maintenance work is so badly carried out in NHG.
We asked the NHG disclose all these external reviews
NHG response: They flatly refused to do this: “We will not be publishing these reviews.”
We think that even if these reports are unflattering, it is important to be open about any failings for they can be corrected. We think it shows poor management practice to attempt to cover up the failings of NHG.
Best practice surely requires NHG to acknowledge mistakes, negotiate how to remedy them with residents, and then correct them,
4.That statistics about complaints about repairs and maintenance be disclosed (see point 5.3 in both letters)
NHG response: NHG did not answer us directly but essentially they have refused to disclose their complaints on maintenance/repairs. They say that the statistics, “drive improvement plans so that we stop having more complaints about the same thing.”
NHG also say that the “information on complaints is reported regularly to the Executive, Resident Services Committee and Group Board.” Of course that means that this information is not disclosed to residents whom, we think, should be informed of the general outcome of complaints.
It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that these statistics are so unflattering to NHG that they do not want this information to be made public. Again, if this is the case, it reflects poorly on the management practices of NHG that the ‘knee-jerk’ reaction is to ‘cover up.’
5. That NHG ensure that directly elected residents take part in assessing progress on repairs and maintenance issues (see point 5.4 in both letters)
We argued that there must be directly elected residents overseeing and assessing NHG. Anything else would be re run of the failed policies of the past.
NHG response: They refused to agree to directly elected residents to take part in the oversight and assessment of repairs and maintenance.
NHG continue to argue that they should assess themselves. The problem is that this has been the policy for a number of years and it has clearly failed.