Annual Report to South Cambridgeshire District Council Tenants [DRAFT TEXT]

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1 APPENDIX A Annual Report to South Cambridgeshire District Council Tenants [DRAFT TEXT] Welcome Welcome to our first annual report to tenants that sets out our performance as a landlord and the commitments we propose to make to you in the coming year. I hope you will find it both informative and interesting. In these challenging times where there will be less money available, we have continued to work hard to make sure we can offer you the best service possible. Satisfaction with repairs remains high and we are one of the top performing landlords in the East of England when it comes to collecting rents and reletting our homes. Working with a project group of staff, councillors and tenants we are looking at ways to work smarter to ensure that we offer you value for money and are working as efficiently as possible. Our thanks are extended to the housing staff whose ongoing contribution, dedication and commitment have been vital to providing you with a housing service that we are all proud of. We are also grateful to all of you who have contributed to the success of the service by getting involved in the various tenant groups. By listening to you, we can work together to ensure we are providing the services you want. We would therefore like to hear from you as to what you think of this report or if you would like to get involved in influencing the delivery of our housing services. Contact details can be found at the end of this report.. Mark Howell Housing Portfolio Holder `.. Dave Champion Chair of South Cambs Tenant Participation Group

2 Introduction As your landlord, South Cambridgeshire District Council is responsible for looking after your home. We have a total of 5852 homes in 96 of our villages within the district and manage 43 sheltered schemes that provide homes for older people. In 2009 you voted that South Cambridgeshire District Council should remain as your landlord. The Tenant Services Authority (TSA) monitors and regulates us and other local authorities and housing associations across the country. One of their requirements is that we produce an annual report to you outlining how we meet the standards set by the TSA and how we aim to improve our services to you and your local neighbourhood. The TSA standards cover the following headings: Tenant involvement and customer care Maintaining your home Letting homes Looking after your neighbourhood and communal areas Value for money The TSA wants landlords to tailor services around what tenants actually want known as Local Offers. This report has been produced in consultation with the Tenants Participation Group (TPG) and a tenants forum, and in the coming months we will be working with you to agree our Local Offers as part of the improvements already identified within this report as follows: Tenant Involvement and Customer Care Work with a range of tenant focus groups to update our service standards. Increase the ways that we ask you for comments on our services; telephone; events and mystery shopping exercises. Improve our communication with you by developing our tenant editorial team; involving them in writing our publications, letters and forms, and putting more useful and interactive information on our website. Check that the information we hold on you and your needs is up to date so that we can improve how we communicate with you and provide services to meet your needs. Use a variety of methods to try to involve a wide range of customers in all aspects of our service. Maintaining Your Home Improve the way we carry out repairs in your home and neighbourhood with an emphasis on getting it right first time. Letting Homes Review the Lettings Standard with you.

3 Your Neighbourhood Set up a tenants focus group to examine our tenancy management policies and procedures and publish clear and accessible policies outlining our approach to managing tenancies. Review our processes for new tenants to make sure we know about any support needs before they move in and that all new tenants have a full understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Work with you to monitor the grounds maintenance contract. Value for Money Explore ways in which you can be involved in monitoring value for money through a tenant-led panel. A brief outline of this report was published in the September edition of Key Issues, contained within the South Cambs magazine.

4 Money Matters The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) is an account within the Council for spending on Council housing. Last year, we received income of 23.7 million, with most of this coming from rent. The money we spent from the HRA account on maintaining and managing your homes was 24.1 million in 2009/10, which meant we used 400,000 from our reserves to balance the books. However, the Council was required to pay 11.5 million of our income from your rents to the Government, some of which helps fund council housing in other local authorities across the country. How we spend the rent you give us (based on an average rent of 75.00) Repairs & Maintenance ( 25.91) Sheltered Housing Service (excluding service charges) ( 1.28) Tenant Participation ( 0.48) Payment to Central Government ( 40.81) Outdoor Maintenance, i.e. grass cutting ( 0.46) Management Costs, (including staffing, office costs, administration) ( 5.84) Other ( 0.22) [Source: based on 2009/10 actual expenditure] The statement of accounts (which includes the Housing Revenue Accounts) can be found on our website at:

5 Tenant Involvement and Customer Care Customer Care We aim to train all housing staff in customer service as part of the Council s plan to achieve the Government s Customer Service Excellence standard in There are various ways you can contact us or access our services by: Visiting us at South Cambs Council at Cambourne, or telephone us at our Contact Centre, or you can write or us. We offer a wide range of payment options for rent and other charges including online payment. You can visit our website where you will find further information regarding the services we offer. Every resident has a designated housing services officer who they can contact to discuss any housing related matter. If you live in sheltered housing you also have a sheltered housing officer. Staff visit residents in their own homes, take part in estate inspections and regularly attend and support residents meetings outside office hours. To keep you informed we provide you with a wide range of information about the services you receive, including: o a sign up pack for new tenants, o quarterly rent statements, o information leaflets o service standards. o A tenants handbook o South Cambs magazine (Key Issues) In a survey carried out in December 2009, 72% of respondents said they would like us to let them know how tenants have made a difference to Council services through Key Issues. Similarly, the South Cambs magazine was the preferred way to keep residents informed of our performance and other items of interest. All of our information can be provided in different formats large type, audio tapes or CDs, Braille, electronically - or translated into other languages where needed. Customer satisfaction The most frequent way you contact us is telephoning the Contact Centre and the chart below shows your overall satisfaction levels with the service provided by the Contact Centre:

6 Overall Satisfaction with the Contact Centre 1% 1% 1% 29% Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Fair Satisfied Very Satisfied 68% 97% of customers are either very satisfied or satisfied with the service provided by the Contact Centre. [Source: Contact Centre Survey June 2010] The results of the last tenant satisfaction survey in 2008 in relation to our landlord services showed: That there has been an increase in satisfaction scores since the previous survey in % expressed satisfaction with the housing services provided by the Council. Two thirds of the respondents were satisfied their views were being taken into account (64%). Four fifths of respondents (82%) rated the way we keep you informed as good. Giving you choice To enable you to have a choice we currently offer: a range of appointment times for repairs. a range of payment options. a choice of colours and design when a kitchen is replaced. a choice of tiles and floor coverings in bathroom replacements. Tenants are also involved in choosing new contractors who carry out works in your home.

7 Complaints The Council is committed to improving services and providing excellent customer service, the Council will treat complaints, comments and compliments with respect and seek to understand your point of view. You can complain in a variety of ways including in person, on the telephone, by , on line through our website or by letter. We monitor customer complaints, suggestions and compliments and are committed to learning from what residents tell us and putting things right where changes are needed. Tenant involvement The basic framework at present consists of the Tenants Participation Group (TPG), which includes representation from the three sheltered housing forums, the leaseholder forum, resident groups, and Village Voices. Representatives from the newly forming disability forum will be asked to join the TPG. We also have panels of tenants who assist us to monitor the work of contractors. The Tenant Participation Advisory Service was asked to review our resident involvement service in November The review examined our agreements and associated documentation. It involved the views of both tenants and staff. The work helped to develop a new involvement strategy and action plan. There is an agreement to work in partnership with you to ensure the best possible service is delivered. A new Resident Involvement Strategy was approved in July Key Issues is used to try to encourage involvement in all aspects of our work, highlighting tenant issues and forthcoming items of interest. There is an editorial team for Key Issues including two tenant representatives. Training has been provided for tenants to enable them to become tenant inspectors. Tenants attend regional and national conferences. A training audit is also being undertaken to assess individual training needs of TPG members, to ensure effective training and value for money. The website contains information on resident involvement and how residents can be involved. The tenants handbook is available on the website or can be posted to you upon request and this contains further information on how residents can be involved. Understanding and responding to diverse needs We do all we can to make sure our services are open, welcoming and easy to access for people of every age, religion or faith, gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, and people with disabilities or care and support needs. We achieve this by:

8 Having accessible offices that meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. Offering home visits to avoid unnecessary travel. Having hearing loops in our interview rooms. Having accessibility and translation features on our website. Undertaking a programme of equality impact assessments for all our services, to make sure our services do not negatively impact on groups of people or individuals. We also: remove racist or hate graffiti within 24 hours arrange support for victims of hate crime and domestic violence give priority and reduce parking charges to blue disability badge holders for a garage or car parking spaces are achieving and working towards excellence in the national Equality Framework for Local Government comply with the CRE (now Commission for Equality and Human Rights) code of practice for racial equality in housing are reviewing our procedures for dealing with domestic violence and harassment in line with our Antisocial Behaviour Strategy. To improve tenant involvement and customer care, we will: Work with a range of tenant focus groups to update our service standards. Continue to improve customer service skills of front line staff through training and coaching to deliver better services. Increase the ways that we ask you for comments on our services; telephone, events and mystery shopping exercises. Improve our communication with you by developing our tenant editorial team; involving them in writing our publications, letters and forms, and putting more useful and interactive information on our website. Check that the information we hold on you and your needs is up to date so that we can improve how we communicate with you and provide services to meet your needs. Use a variety of methods to try to involve a wide range of customers in all aspects of our service.

9 We will report the results back to you and tell you how we use the results to make improvements to our services. Maintaining Your Home From the survey carried out in 2008 the majority of respondents were satisfied with the overall quality of their home (88%), the general condition of their property (86%) and the value for money of their rent (82%) and 83% expressed satisfaction with repairs and maintenance to their homes. Regular surveys carried out following repairs reveals satisfaction rates of over 95%. We are on target to meet the government s Decent Homes standard by December A 5 year maintenance programme has been produced that sets out our commitment to maintaining and improving your homes. We consult annually with a group of tenants on the priorities for this programme. In the 2009 survey you also indicated to us what your priorities are for repairs and improvements to your homes. To improve how we maintain your homes, we will: Improve the way we carry out repairs in your homes and neighbourhood with an emphasis on getting it right first time. Continue to ensure that we complete an annual safety check of all the gas appliances in all of your homes. Ensure that we continue with our programme of electrical safety inspections. Manage the fire risk in blocks of flats and sheltered communal areas. Improve the sustainability of our housing wherever possible making them more energy efficient and to support us in tackling fuel poverty. Letting Homes Required outcomes As at April 2010, there were a total of 4459 applicants on the housing register for South Cambridgeshire. Last year we let 213 general needs homes and 121 sheltered homes. Properties requiring minor repairs only when becoming vacant were empty for an average of 19 days for general needs and 30 days for sheltered. All homes are let through the sub-regional choice based lettings scheme, known as Home-Link. - details of which can be found at Analysis of the transfer list and local authority housing needs data shows that there is high demand for social rented housing across the district.

10 We carry out visits to new tenants during the first 6 weeks of their tenancy to check all is well and offer a limited support service to tenants who are struggling to set up or maintain their tenancy. To improve the letting of our homes, we will: Review the lettings standard with you. Investigate options to assist those wishing to move to smaller accommodation and improve mobility opportunities through improvements to the mutual exchange scheme. Continue to develop the Home-link Choice Based Lettings Scheme to provide greater choice and opportunities for those who may wish to move. Your Neighbourhood We have recently agreed a new programme of estate inspections where housing services officers will actively seek involvement from local residents to join them on the inspections. We are also talking to parish councils to explore new initiatives to work together. We work closely with Cambridgeshire County Council, housing associations, and local charities to improve your neighbourhood. Anti-Social Behaviour Information taken from the Government s 2008 survey of the District gave a general picture that South Cambridgeshire is performing exceptionally well in regards to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, however you have told us that we could still do better. In response to this we now have a dedicated officer to deal with your concerns of anti-social behaviour in your neighbourhood and feedback from other agencies has proved very positive that this is working well. Working with the Police and other agencies, we are active partners with local crime initiatives and are currently looking at ways we can deter young people from getting involved in anti-social activities. We also use Cambridge Mediation, an independent mediation service, which has proved very effective as an initial way to resolve disputes. To improve your neighbourhood and tackle antisocial behaviour, we will: Measure our performance on ASB against our service standards and as we are part of Housemark, a national benchmarking club we can compare our performance against other similar organisations.

11 Set up a tenants focus group to examine our tenancy management policies and procedures and publish clear and accessible policies outlining our approach to managing tenancies. Review our processes for new tenants to make sure we know about any support needs before they move in and that all new tenants have a full understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Work with you to monitor the grounds maintenance contract. Value for Money Revised funding arrangements for housing will mean an even greater need for prioritising spending decisions. We know that we perform well yet we only spend 75% of the sector average, and that staffing to property ratios are one housing officer for 1200 properties against a sector average of one housing officer per 600 properties. We are working closely with a focus group of tenants and councillors to ensure that we spend your money effectively and efficiently. Following this, we will produce a Value for Money Strategy. To improve Value for Money within the landlord services, we will: Save money to spend where it is most important to you. Ensure our costs are as low as possible in comparison to similar sized landlords. Explore ways in which you can be involved in monitoring value for money through a tenant-led panel. Publish an annual Value for Money Statement. Get in touch Housing customer services (8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday except bank holidays) Write to or visit: Housing Services, South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambourne Business Park, Cambourne, Cambridge, CB23 6EA Visit: If you would like a translation of this document into another language, Braille, spoken tape or a larger text version please contact us and we will try and accommodate your needs.

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