Luton Borough Council Housing Landlord Services

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1 Luton Borough Council Housing Landlord Services Annual Report to Tenants 2010/11

2 Contents Click on the section you are interested in below to go straight to the information. Why you should read this report 5 A Message from the Chair of the Tenants Consultative Committee 6 A Message from the Head of Housing Landlord Services 7 A Message from Councillor Tom Shaw - Portfolio Holder for Housing 8 Performance Summary 9 How we did with our targets from 2009/10 13 Tenant Involvement and Empowerment 15 Overview 15 Complaints, Compliments and Comments 19 Understanding and responding to diverse needs of tenants 22 Home 25 Repairs and Maintenance 25 Tenancy 30 Tenancy Management 30 Allocations 36 Rents 38 Sheltered Housing 43 Neighbourhood and Community 46 Neighbourhood Management 46 Local Area Cooperation 49 Antisocial Behaviour (ASB) 51 Value for Money 53 Performance and Local Service Standards 56 Contact Phone Numbers 57 2

3 Tables, charts and graphs Click on the section you are interested in below to go straight to the table, graph or chart. Performance Summary 9 Performance Summary 9 How we did with our targets from 2009/10 13 How we did with our targets from 2009/10 13 Tenant Involvement and Empowerment 15 Tenant Participation Budget 15 Summary of Complaints and Compliments for Housing Landlord Services 2010/11 20 Types of Complaints 21 Age Profile of Tenants 22 Ethnicity Profile of Tenants 23 Home 25 Repairs and Maintenance 25 Repairs Responses 26 Repairs Spend 26 Cost Comparison of Day-to-Day repairs completed against Planned Maintenance repairs 27 Adaptations work comparisons 28 Tenancy 30 Housing Stock 30 Accompanied Viewings 32 Average weekly management cost per property 33 Right to Buy Completions 33 Average days taken to Re-let Council Homes 34 Lettings 36 Rent Arrears 38 Number of Court Referrals and Evictions for Rent Arrears 39 Cost of rent lost due to void properties 40 Average Weekly Rents (includes service charges) 41 Sheltered Housing 43 Telelink Care Services 44 3

4 Sheltered Housing 44 Neighbourhood and Community 46 Reporting on fly tipping and rubbish 47 Reporting on cleaning issues 47 Responses to ASB 52 Value for Money 53 Housing Income and expenditure 54 How every 1 of housing revenue account money was spent 54 Amount of reserves 55 Amount of grants from central government 55 4

5 Why you should read this report More now than ever, tenants have the rights and powers to be involved in managing their homes and deciding about things in their neighbourhoods. But in order to take advantage of these opportunities tenants, and leaseholders, need to understand what is happening in Luton s Housing Landlord Services and how efficient it is. They need clear evidence of the Council s performance and the skills and abilities to be able to monitor that performance and set targets for the coming years. They also need to be able to review financial statements and steer spending in ways that benefit tenants. This years report has been designed to be delivered in two ways: The Full Report is this on-line detailed Annual Report which we can produce at minimal cost using in-house resources and support from tenant representatives. Throughout the report you will find links to other documents and web pages which you can access by clicking on the relevant links where you see them. The Summary Report contains all the key facts and figures but has limited descriptive content. It is easy to read and is produced with the support of designers and printers. There will always be areas for improvement, but I am impressed by the Council s determination to improve, as demonstrated throughout this Annual Report. Anthony Gamble Chairman Communications Service Area Panel 5

6 Welcome A Message from the Chair of the Tenants Consultative Committee I am delighted to present the Housing Departments Annual Report for 2010/11 which is very much a testament to the tremendous work of everyone involved in the services we receive. My thanks are extended to my fellow members of the Tenants Consultative Committee, who have presided over many challenges and successes in the year, and to the management and staff of the Council whose ongoing contribution, commitment and dedication continue to deliver improvements for tenants. I would also like to thank all the tenants, who have made a big contribution to the success of the Councils housing services by getting involved and having a say. Over the next year we will remain committed to putting tenants at the heart of everything the Council does in line with the Governments Big Society and the impending Localism Bill. In this way we will be able to provide even more ways for you to shape the decisions that affect your tenancy. I would also like to praise Landlord Services for their continued support and determination to embed tenant participation into all its departments and the many agencies working across Luton who support and contribute to what we do. It is precisely because of this strong collaboration that our landlord services remains strong with many talents and innovative approaches in the way it works. With the continued involvement and support of tenants we can continue to work towards our ambition to have a landlord that is one of the top performers for the services we receive. Fred Fowler Chair of Tenant Consultative Committee 6

7 A Message from the Head of Housing Landlord Services I am pleased to say that we have had another successful year with some noticeable achievements. Picking out a few of them: We achieved best in class rent collection performance in what was a difficult financial climate and importantly reduced the number of expensive evictions, enabling us to focus resources on your priorities. We improved Estate Services, getting more tenants involved in monitoring the contract standards and improving the look and feel of estates. We invested in technology in the repairs service to ensure we can offer flexible and customer focused services. We operated our transparent choice base lettings approach to allocating homes, with tenants really getting to grips with on line bidding and understanding how to use the feedback on bids to become more focused in their bids and thus be successful. We used a variety of tenant involvement methods to ensure we had clear feedback from tenants in shaping the service, with lots of new faces getting involved. Going forward, one of the big issues is the review of how you as tenants get involved. Please look out for further information on this and take the right opportunity to have your say. Trevor Morrow Head of Housing. 7

8 A Message from Councillor Tom Shaw - Portfolio Holder for Housing Welcome to the second Luton Borough Council Housing Annual Report. In this report I want you to see what s good and what s not so good with the housing service. As Portfolio Holder for Housing I am determined that as a Luton tenant you receive a service you can rely on and that reflects good value for the rent you pay. Where performance is good we show this in the report. Where our performance could be improved we are honest in pointing this out and more importantly how we will get things right in future. I am committed to making sure Luton tenants get the value that they deserve from the Housing Service. This report helps show you how we will achieve this. Cllr Tom Shaw Portfolio Holder for Housing 8

9 Performance Summary This Performance Summary has been produced by tenants and officers in order to give you a quick view on how the different sections of Landlord Services performed during the accounting year of 2010/11. We have used the evidence provided in the report. Not all of our performance indicators are measured against targets. We acknowledge that we need to measure our performance against targets in future. Performance Summary Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Area Success Concern For 2011/12 Tenant involvement and empowerment Wider involvement Tenant open day Supporting Key Customers (KCs) Reduced TCC membership Support plan for KCs Changes to governance Complaints, Compliments and comments Increase in compliments Overall decrease in complaints Increase in complaints about failure to provide service Increase in complains about service provided on time Start a complaints panel Understanding and responding to diverse needs of tenants Tenant disabilities panel started Sheltered tenant panel started Lack of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and younger tenant involvement New and informal ways of engaging Improve tenant profile information Home Repairs and Maintenance Decent Homes standard met Reduction in average waiting time for adaptations Increase in ratio of planned works to day-to-day repairs Reduction in houses with current gas safety certificate Reduction in repairs completed on time Reduction in satisfaction with the repairs service Improved repairs diagnosis through better call-handling tools New IT to enable mobile working for operatives Improve gas servicing compliance

10 Tenancy Tenancy Management Allocations Rents Area Success Concern For 2011/12 Reduction in average management cost per property Start of new tenancy visits Lower refusal rate Accessibility housing register Reduction in court action and evictions More former tenant rent arrears collected Introduction of monthly payment plans Reduction in refund processing and balance transfers Increase in re-let times Increased number of people seeking properties in Luton Increase in former tenant arrears Start of remote working to enable housing officers to spend more time on estates Reduce re-let times Improve mutual exchange register More housing options through Bedfordshire Homefinder Review lettings process based on customer feedback New financial inclusion strategy Improve Former Tenant Arrears recovery Sheltered Housing Sheltered Housing Start of sheltered tenant service area panel High tenant satisfaction with sheltered service and Telelink Care Services High number of tenants report Telelink Care Services staff not giving their name 30% of tenants asked say they have not been invited to attend a residents meeting A large number of tenants said that they were not involved in putting 10their support plan together Ensure tenants at the centre of the support planning process Produce a new service handbook Scooter storage review Promotion of sheltered schemes

11 Neighbourhood and Community Area Success Concern For 2011/12 Draft Neighbourhood Strategy Neighbourhood management 2% reduction in cost of grass cutting and cleaning contracts No clear Neighbourhood Strategy Lack of coherent approach to estate inspection Enforcement against perpetrators of fly-tipping Increase tenant involvement in estate inspections Increase the number and scope of key customers Local Area Cooperation Family intervention workers Improved working with Luton Action Against Poverty, Luton Rights and Housing Benefits Levels of overcrowding Services not aligned with Neighbourhood Governance area board Tackle overcrowding Work with partners to deliver actions from family poverty strategy Align services with neighbourhood governance Antisocial Behaviour (ASB) Reduction of ASB at The Green and Wolfsburg Court Close partnership working to tackle ASB ASB remains a key customer priority Lack of reliable information on key risk hot spot areas Lack of reliable customer information on case handling Review of CCTV Improve data on hot spot areas Improve data on customer perceptions and satisfaction with case handling 11

12 Value for Money Area Success Concern For 2011/12 Collected 98.35% of the income due in the period Value for Money Reduced the costs of collection by 127,000 Continued to make savings and improve efficiency through using lean thinking Managed the financial risks associated with the changes to operatives pay and conditions at BTS and delivered a modest trading profit Potential income was lost through void (empty) properties Not spending full allocated budgets in key areas Former Tenant Arrears have increased by 9% Maximise all income streams Continue to reduce costs of services through eliminating wasteful activity and increased online and self service access to services Introduction of new government rules on the financing of Council Housing 12

13 How we did with our targets from 2009/10 All of these targets were in the 2010 Annual Report to Tenants. How we did with our targets from 2009/10 Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Area Target Outcome Tenant involvement and empowerment Complaints Understanding and responding to diverse needs of tenants Start a tenant panel for sheltered housing tenants by April 2011 Started in January 2011 Improve on 23% of complaints not resolved within the standard time Improve feedback on services from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic tenants and younger tenants Number of complaints out of time reduced to 18% Due to lack of reliable customer information Home Repairs and Maintenance Reduce the average adaptation time from 28 months Consider alternative ways of providing the repairs and maintenance service Reduced to 20 months Locator Plus and mobile working have been in planning in 2010/11 Tenancy Tenancy Management Allocations Rents Reduce the average of 36 days re-let time to our general needs properties No goals stated in the 2009/10 annual report to tenants 13 Changed performance measure to give absolute clarity on income lost due to properties being empty - 43 days is the average time a general needs property was empty during n/a Reduce former tenant arrears from 1.4 million Increased by 9%

14 Sheltered Housing Area Target Outcome Sheltered Housing Improve re-lettings of sheltered housing to reduce the number of empty homes Sheltered re-let times have increased to 109 in 2010/11 Neighbourhood and Community Neighbourhood management Test customer satisfaction with our Fountains cleaning and grounds maintenance contractor Local Area Cooperation New indicator. No goals set. n/a We did not do this in 2010/11 but have started surveys that will be published monthly in 2011/12 Anti-Social Behaviour Test customer satisfaction with the Tenancy Enforcement service Our telephone survey of 35 tenants showed 23 tenants were satisfied. Only three tenants were dissatisfied Value for Money Value for Money Maximise income Reduce costs of the service Better directed services to meet individual needs Increased by 1.07 million Reduced cost of providing the rents service and reduced cost of providing the estate services Continued data collected in 2010/11 to build up better knowledge of customers but no strategic use of data 14

15 Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Overview The following table shows how your rent money was spent Tenant Participation Budget Budget Item Salaries and allowances Explanation Tenant Participation team salaries and allowances TP Spend 2010/11 103, Stationery Stationery for events and mailings Printing Newsletters, questionnaires and event promotion (includes postage charges for Housing Matters and the Annual Report to Tenants 2009/10). 26, Postage Cost of postage 1, Telephone Calls Officers Expenses Calls made by tenant representatives on behalf of LBC Officer expenses for out of hours meetings General Insurances Insurance for tenant representatives Tenant Costs Fixed Central Costs Tenant training fees, travel expenses, venue hire, catering, photography, tenant printing Annual payments for Council services e.g. legal, customer services, human resources 0 10, , Total 145, We currently have 130 tenants regularly involved in scrutinising our housing services at levels of involvement and with a time commitment that suits them. These tenants: help set and review policies are involved in setting standards monitor outcomes scrutinise the services of the Council

16 Tenant Consultative Committee (TCC) Our main tenant body is the Tenants Consultative Committee (TCC). This is our democratically elected strategic tenants group and at this level tenants have their say on Council policies and recommend their views to the Executive of the Council. Listening to tenants and acting upon their input is important to us. During 2010 /11 our TCC met with Council Officers regularly throughout the year to be briefed on major policy proposals. Having heard proposals the TCC s recommendations were passed onto the Council s Executive Committee. Fourteen tenants were members of the TCC in 2010/11. Service Area Panels (SAPs) The TCC is supported by Service Area Panels (SAPs) comprising 15 members covering Tenancy Management, Income, Communications Sheltered Housing, Disabilities and Asset Management. The SAPs are small groups of tenants who, working with officers, monitor performance, scrutinise how we are doing, set targets and suggest how we can improve performance. For example: The Communications SAP helped us to redesign the look and content of Housing Matters and worked with us to make sure our factsheets are informative for tenants. The Income SAP has worked closely with the Income Team to successfully reduce rent arrears and put Luton as a top performing Authority on rents. The Tenancy Management SAP identified environmental improvements, such as security fencing and gates at a number of locations within the town, and targeted spending to make improvements. We also consulted all the SAPs to put together local housing service standards. We took these proposed standards out on a tour of our estates and spoke to several hundred tenants about them. We then brought these results back to the SAPs to finalise the content of our Local Service Standards. Tenant Open Day In July 2010 we held our first Tenant Open Day and over 300 tenants came along to the Town Hall to talk to officers about housing issues. We held another one in early December 2010 but found that this was not a convenient time of year. We will be holding summer Tenant Open Days in future. 16

17 Tenant and Resident Associations (TARAs) TARAs represent tenants in a specific community and have the support of the Council to monitor its housing services to that community. TARA members work closely with Council Officers to address local issues and advise on improvements. In 2010/11 there were seven tenant and resident associations (TARA). Ashcroft and Ramridge, Hastings Street, Park Town, Limbury, Hart Lane, Dusty s Yard at Whipperley Ring, and Lewsey West and Central (this particular TARA last year donated over 7000 to local causes including 1000 to air ambulance). One other TARA in Farley Hill was discontinued. Key Customers 47 tenants have been trained as Key Customers who keep an eye on cleaning standards and grounds maintenance and report issues to ensure they are dealt with. Governance Governance is the decision making and accountability structures that control and direct an organisation. Tenant involvement is very important to us in contributing towards effective Governance of Housing Landlord Services. We value tenants input into governance and are preparing to review the involvement structures in light of legislative changes being proposed by government. The aim is to encourage greater tenant involvement this will include looking at the way the TCC and SAPs work. We are currently consulting with elected members on the future of tenant involvement in the governance of your landlord. We are committed to embedding tenant involvement in every aspect of service delivery. The Future We will: Continue to involve a wider range of tenants and leaseholders in having a say in how their homes and neighbourhoods are managed, including younger people, families with children and other groups who are under-represented in our formal participation structure and whose voice we need to hear. Report back to you at regular intervals in the Housing Matters magazine so you can check how effective our resident involvement policies are. 17

18 Promote resident involvement as an important part of all Housing department officers work. Publish quarterly performance on our internet pages Develop a training and continuing support process for key customers to enable them to effectively monitor services delivered Complete governance review and report to tenants If you would like to get involved in tenant panels and performance monitoring please contact Tenant Involvement Team on or 18

19 Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Complaints, Compliments and Comments How we did Whilst we are always happy to receive compliments, we understand that we may not get things right every time. We take it very seriously if someone is unhappy with our services and fully investigate any complaint we receive. During 2010/11 Housing Landlord Services received: 487 Compliments which demonstrates the good work staff are doing. 96 Complaints were received o Where: 6 acknowledgements were done out of time, and 17 responses were responded to out of time limits. o The response target is in line with national targets of 82% within time limits. o The reason for the delays in responses were partly due to where complaints were complex and needed more time for full investigations to be carried out. The Complaints Process We use a three stage Complaints process in order to ensure that complaints can be dealt with. Further, if a complainant is unhappy with the original outcome the review process is listed below: Stage 1 Review by a manager in the relevant service Stage 2 Review by a senior manager Stage 3 Review by a Head of Service We are looking at setting up a complaints panel in future as part of changes to our governance structures. Outcome of Complaints Although most of the complaints we receive are resolved at Stage 1: Seven complaints were escalated to the Stage 2 investigation stage, and Three complaints were escalated to Stage 3 and a review carried out. 19

20 In addition, and following our three stage process, complainants can exercise their right to ask the Local Government Ombudsman to review the process. In some cases there might be an early referral that doesn t require all of the three stage process. The three complainants who took their complaints to Stage 3 exercised their right of referral to the Ombudsman. The three complaints were not upheld. From each compliment, comment or complaint there are things we can learn. This report cannot detail all the lessons that have been learned but more information is available in the Housing & Community Living Complaints and Representations Annual Report available in the Housing and Adult Social Care section of the Council s website. To view the report, click this link. Complaints and Representations Annual Report Overall, we are very pleased to report that we continue to receive an increasing number of compliments with the number of complaints decreasing. This is because we have improved a number of our processes and have carried out a large amount of staff training. Both of these help us deliver improved services. We have also listened to our customers and have made improvements in the way you can contact us. If you are viewing this report online you can find more details about our complaints process by clicking here. Complaints Process Summary of Complaints and Compliments for Housing Landlord Services 2010/11 Complaints received to Housing Landlord Services 96 Complaints resolved on time 82% Late acknowledgement of complaint 6 Late response to complaint 17 Complaints moved to stage two 7 Complaints moved to stage three 3 Housing complaints referred to the Ombudsman (includes the 3 that went to stage three and six referred at an earlier stage) Complaints to Ombudsman upheld 3 Cost of compensation Ombudsman settlements 1950 Compliments 487 One of the reasons that complaints have gone down is because officers have been encouraged to deal with any verbal concerns within 24 hours. If they are able to do so then the issue raised is not registered as a formal complaint. This leaves more time to deal with difficult/complex issues. 9 20

21 Types of Complaints 2008/ / /11 Timeliness Staff Behaviour Inadequate Information Service Standard Management Decision Failure to provide service Total The Future We will: Report our complaints performance and the outcome of complaints annually to all tenants and leaseholders. Review the current complaints process to ensure we comply with proposed legislative changes to involve tenants If you wish to make a compliment or complaint to the Council about housing services please contact: The Complaints and Representations Manager Housing and Community Living Department Unity House 111 Stuart Street Luton LU1 5NP Tel:

22 Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Understanding and responding to diverse needs of tenants Luton is a multi-cultural community and our tenant base reflects this diversity. We endeavour to take the diverse needs of our tenants into account in delivering services. There are many examples of how we do this: We arrange for large print, Braille or translations for publications such as Housing Matters, Factsheets etc. All our publications are edited by the Communications SAP to make sure they are written in clear English and they carry the clear English logo. Our Tenants Consultative Committee co-opted members that give a balance to the committee in terms of ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality and religion. We have 1000 tenants from diverse backgrounds who are keen to offer their views on our services this enables us to invite people to meetings and ensure we obtain views from a cross-section of communities. We work with our SAPs to check our policies to ensure do not adversely affect tenants with diverse needs, e.g. disabilities. When we draw up new policies we always consult with our tenants and ensure that Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) are carried out to minimise any adverse impacts on minority groups. Age Profile of Tenants years 4% 65+ years 28% years 44% years 24% The age profile of tenants is based on data from 8029 tenants. 22

23 Ethnicity Profile of Tenants Other 2% Polish 1% Kashmiri 1% Asian / British Indian 1% Mixed White & Black Carribbean 2% Black / British African 4% Asian / British Pakistani 5% Asian /British Bangladeshi 5% White Irish 6% Black / British Caribbean 7% White British 66% The ethnicity profile of tenants is based on data from 4910 tenants. 23

24 The Future We will: Work to tackle the underrepresentation of certain groups of tenants, such as younger tenants and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) tenants. We are looking at more informal methods to engage with these groups. Use the increasing customer profile information to enable us to deliver services in ways to best meet the needs of the individual. If you would like to get involved in tenant panels and monitoring the Councils performance please contact the Tenant Involvement Team on or 24

25 Home Repairs and Maintenance Decent Homes We achieved 100% Decent Home Standard across the homes we own and manage (This excludes Purley Centre properties that are subject to demolition notice).. This has taken seven years to complete at a cost of 46 million. You can see what we did each year in the table below. The Decent Homes Standard sets out the minimum acceptable standard for kitchens and bathrooms in social housing. We have a programme to keep our housing Decent over the next five years. You can find the programme at Spend on Decent Homes work (to end Q2) No. of Non- Decent Homes 's 000's 000's 000's 000's 000's 000's Bathrooms Kitchens Windows Heating Rewires Re-Roofing Chimneys TOTAL SPEND

26 Repairs Response We are aware of the importance to you of a good repairs and maintenance service. Over 3.3 million was spent on repairs in 2010/11, making 35,000 repairs across our housing stock of 8000 homes. 91.5% of repairs were completed on time. 94% of respondents who had a repair completed in 2010/11 said they were satisfied with the service they received. Repairs Responses 2008/ / /11 Central Beds Repairs completed on time 99.3% 98% 91.5% Information not available Appointments missed by tenants Satisfaction with repair services Information not available Information not available 1769 (6%) Information not available 94.82% 98.6% 94% 94% Repairs Spend 2008/ / /11 Day to Day Repairs 23% 22% 21% Cost of Day to Day Repairs 3,894,834 4,083,101 3,328,729 Planned works 77% 78% 79% Cost of Planned Works 12,679,036 14,160,481 12,160,090 Total cost of repairs 16,573,870 18,243,582 15,488,819 Housing budget spent on repairs Average weekly maintenance cost per property * 28.97% 28.92% 27.8% * This includes responsive repairs and planned maintenance. It does not include capital works e.g. new kitchens, bathrooms and rewiring. 26

27 Planned Maintenance It is more cost effective to carry out planned repairs and maintenance than responding to individual repair requests. In 2010/11 we spent 79% ( 12.1 million) of our repairs and maintenance budget on planned maintenance and improvements and 21% ( 3.3 million on) day to day (responsive) repairs. By comparison, in 2009 the Audit Commission said that of 36 inspections of repairs and maintenance services by the Housing Inspectorate all spent over 30% of their budget on responsive repairs. They recommend that housing providers with over 40% responsive repairs should work to reduce this. Details of our planned works programme for 2011/12 can be found on our website. Click this link. Planned Works Programme 2011/12. Cost Comparison of Day-to-Day repairs completed against Planned Maintenance repairs Planned Maintenance 79% 21% Day to Day Repairs Adaptations We want you to be able to enjoy your home. If you find it difficult to access parts of your home, we can help to make things easier for you. You may benefit from a small change, such as a handrail to help you to climb steps or stairs, or you may need a more complicated adaptation, such as a stairlift. 27

28 Adaptations are changes that we can make to help you. We are able to provide some adaptations for you or, where this is not possible due to the cost or specialist adaptations needed we may still be able to help you by offering you more suitable accommodation. Adaptations work comparisons 2009/ /11 Central Beds Number of adaptations Cost of adaptations , ,653 $471,000 Average waiting time for adaptation 868 days (28 months) 635 Days (20 months) Information not available Gas Safety Gas safety is a top priority for us as it ensures that homes and heating systems are safe. The gas safety check includes checks for carbon monoxide. For details on what is involved in the Gas Safety check click here. Gas Safety Check Details. Percentage of properties that have had their gas equipment serviced 2008/ / /11 Central Beds 96% 99.4% 95.6% 99.1% 95.6% of our homes have a current gas safety certificate compared with 99.4% in 2009/10. We are not satisfied with this performance. The reasons for the reduction were: Tenants not giving access to properties we did attempt to access every necessary property. For a three month period there was a reduced number of office staff available to provide gas servicing administration. During this time productivity of gas servicing staff fell due to the introduction of new working practices involving equal pay. Since 2010/11 these staffing factors have been addressed. We are working at completing gas safety checks for all our properties, but we can only do this with your help by allowing us access to your property to carry out safety checks. 28

29 The Future We are constantly looking at ways we can improve the repairs service you receive. There are key areas of our work that, by using new technology, we can make some important improvements. We will: Introduce Locator Plus into our repairs call centre. Locator Plus uses pictures and text to give our repairs call centre staff the ability to match the problem to the correct repair solution Introduce mobile working to our repair staff making the service more efficient and saving paper. Mobile working means that Council staff are able to update the repair information on their mobiles after each job instead of waiting until they are back at the office. To report a repair, please ring our Repairs Control Centre on our freephone number: or For emergencies outside of normal working hours: ring This number can be used between 6pm and 8am weekdays and at anytime during the weekend and bank holidays. Please note that this number is for emergencies only. If we discover that your repair isn t urgent we may have to charge you for any cost incurred for the call out. 29

30 Tenancy Tenancy Management Your tenancy management team manage the rights and responsibilities related to your tenancy. They are the first point of contact for any changes to your household including succession and ending your tenancy, subletting, house gardens and anti social behaviour. Current Housing Stock We own about one-tenth of all the properties in the Luton; including studio flats, flats, bungalows and houses. As mentioned above, the number we own is reducing each year as tenants use their right to buy. At the end of the 2010/11 financial year we have 8,180 properties as detailed on the next page. Housing Stock 2009/ /11 Difference Studio Flats Bed House or Bungalow Bed Flat or Maisonette 2,292 2, Bed House or Bungalow Bed Flat or Maisonette 1,637 1, Bed House or Bungalow 2,809 2, Bed Flat or Maisonette Bed Houses Bed Houses Total Number of Housing stock 8,170 8,100-70* *The reduction in stock includes properties sold under the Right To Buy scheme and properties removed from stock in Purway Close and Purley Centre. 30

31 Housing Stock 2010/11 4 Bed House 1% 5 Bed House 0.5% Studio Flats 2% 3 Bed House or Bungalow 34% 1 Bed Flat or Maisonette 28% 3 Bed Flat or Maisonette 3% 2 Bed House or Bungalow 10% 2 Bed Flat or Maisonette 20% 1 Bed House or Bungalow 2%

32 Tenancy Audits Since the introduction of Tenancy Audits we have carried out over 1000 audits. The Tenancy Audit allows us to: Update our records regarding your household details. Check the property to identify any breach of the tenancy conditions and if necessary work with you to resolve them. Identify and resolve any sub-letting issues. Accompanied Viewings We have carried accompanied viewings on all offers of new tenancies made. Accompanied viewings are an opportunity to see the property you have bid for with a Council officer before you move in. Assisted Transfers We have given 12 tenants incentives to move to smaller homes under the assisted transfer scheme. This has allowed us to free up larger accommodation to help families on our waiting lists. This cost a total of 44,598. For information about our assisted transfers click here. Assisted Transfer Scheme. New Tenancy Visits We carried out a total of 437 New Tenant Visits in the year. 89% of those were completed within the target of 8 weeks from the start of the tenancy. Nuisance and Antisocial Behaviour In partnership with the Environmental Protection Team we have investigated approximately 600 reports of nuisance or antisocial behaviour. Of these around 300 were referred to the Tenancy Enforcement Team for further investigation or legal action, and the remaining 300 were resolved at the initial investigation stage.

33 Cost of Managing Properties The average management costs per property has reduced by almost 4 per property since the previous year. Due to the cost reductions implemented throughout the year this is expected to reduce further in 2011/12. Average weekly management cost per property 2008/ / / Right to Buy Secure tenants have the right to buy their home. This reduces the amount of homes we have to rent. Over the last few years right to buy sales have reduced significantly, as can be seen from the table below. The government estimates that sales through the right to buy will stay at a low level for the foreseeable future. Right to Buy Completions 2000/ / / Leaseholders Leaseholders are people who take out a long term lease on part of a larger building such as a flat or maisonette within a block. Other properties within the building may be owned by other leaseholders or lived in by council tenants. We, as the owner of a block keep responsibility for maintaining all shared parts and services such as caretaking, cleaning, lighting, and so on. At present we have 704 leaseholders. 33

34 Void Properties Void or empty properties are those that have been vacated by the previous tenant and are waiting to be re-let. Average days taken to Re-let Council Homes All Property Types General Needs Sheltered Our re-let times quoted for 2010/11 include all void properties, including those that are awaiting major works to be carried out or empty as a result of ongoing insurance claims. This is different to how we have measured it in previous years. It gives a higher figure than some landlords who may only list re-let times for properties that are ready-to-let. We use the total re-let time because it shows a true figure of the amount of rent lost due to properties being void. There are many reasons why it can take several weeks to re-let a property, this can include Choice Based Letting cycle, works being carried, some of which are structural or are a result of vandalism so can take a considerable time. We also have a small number of properties that can take longer to let due to perception of the location of the property or the property being held back for clients with specific needs (e.g. sheltered or tenants with mobility problems). In comparison Central Bedfordshire Council s average re-let times for 2010/11 was 34 days for all properties. 34

35 The Future We will: Introduce remote working. This will increase value for money by reducing our management costs and relocating our main office from the satellite office at Farley Hill to the Town Hall. It will also provide the opportunity for a closer working relationship with you, our tenants, as it will allow you to make pre-booked appointments to speak to your Senior Housing Officer in your own home. Reduce the time a property is empty between tenancies. If you have questions about your tenancy please call

36 Tenancy Allocations Demand for social housing within Luton far exceeds the supply. The number of people on the housing waiting list is approximately 5500 people and the figure is increasing. Choice Based Lettings This was the first full year that the Council has been operating Bedfordshire Homefinder, a Choice Based Lettings (CBL) service. CBL provides more choice to housing applicants over where they eventually live. This method of allocating vacant properties leads to tenants who are happier in their homes and therefore stay longer. It also provides opportunities for applicants on Luton s housing registers to move to other locations within Bedfordshire using our cross-bedfordshire agreement. We let 888 properties in 2010/11 comprising of 517 Council and 371 Housing Association properties. In addition, 99 Luton applicants moved to properties elsewhere in Bedfordshire using our cross-bedfordshire agreement. We received 93 refusals from tenants with offers of accommodation (14% of all offers made). Although this is a high figure, it represents a significant improvement on the 43% refusal rate in the last full year prior to the introduction of CBL. Since its launch in December 2009 we have improved the CBL service and have also improved the clarity of adverts to assist applicants with learning or literacy difficulties. We have also launched an Accessible Housing Register which allows applicants with mobility problems or disabilities to identify properties that meet their needs and be automatically prioritised for these properties. Lettings 2008/ / /2011 Number of Lets Number let 1st Time % Let on 1st Offer 81.11% 82.5% 81.62% Number with over 3 refusals % with 3 refusals or more 1.70% 0.33% 1.16% 36

37 Not all offers made on a property result the property being let to that person. There are several reasons why this is the case, including the person changing their mind, or final eligibility checks establish they are not allowed to proceed, such as being in rent arrears.. For more information about our Choice Based Letting programme click this link. Choice Based Lettings The Future We will: Improve the options available to help tenants to move home. We will be launching an improved Mutual Exchange register to enable tenants to find their own housing solutions. Improve the Bedfordshire Homefinder website to provide more information on available housing solutions such as shared ownership, private renting and other housing options. Work towards making our CBL programme a one-stop shop for all housing options, including the private rented sector, in order to offer a greater range of choice. Review our lettings processes and information using customer feedback from new tenants. Introduction of a national home swap scheme at If you want to bid to transfer to another property in Luton or Bedfordshire you can find details of available houses at If you are living in a home that is too large for your needs we offer financial incentives of up to 3000 for you to move to a smaller property. For details contact or click this link. Assisted Transfer Scheme 37

38 Tenancy Rents Rent Arrears In 2010/11 the income team performed outstandingly, reducing rent arrears and sustaining tenancies. After listening to customers about their experiences we carried out a full review of our processes and made substantial changes in the way we work. By working with our customers and offering advice we have reduced the number of tenants we take to court and the number of households we evict. These changes are as a direct result of what you told us we needed to change. Rent Arrears End of year rent arrears 2008/ / /11 812, , ,285 Change in rent arrears -20.7% -11.6% % Rent collected as percentage of rent due Central Beds Information not available Information not available 97.2% 97.8% 98.35% 97.71% With every eviction costing around 4,000 we have been able to save in excess of 240,000 over two years, due to the lower number (26) of evictions carried out. These savings are therefore able to be spent in other areas of our services to benefit tenants. In comparison Central Bedfordshire evicted 13 tenants due to rent arrears in 2010/11. 38

39 Number of Court Referrals and Evictions for Rent Arrears Court Referrals Evictions Income Collection We have also been making great improvements in income collection and this has resulted in Luton being on the brink of becoming one of the best performers of all local authority landlords. Support to Vulnerable Tenants We understand that rent arrears may be an indicator of other problems experienced by tenants. To help resolve some of the problems our tenant support officer works closely with vulnerable tenants, carrying out 1340 visits to give support and advice on their debts. We also held a series of Loan Shark education roadshows. To find out more about Loan Sharks click this link. Dealing with Loan Sharks Financial Inclusion In 2010/11 we planned to write a financial inclusion strategy, but we were not able to do so due to a corporate review of debt collection priorities. We intend to make producing a financial inclusion strategy a priority in the coming year. 39

40 Financial inclusion is defined as the ability of an individual, household, or group to access appropriate financial services or products. Without this ability people are often referred to as financially excluded. People that are financially excluded might: Not be able to access affordable credit Not want to or have difficulty obtaining a bank account Be financially at risk through not having home insurance Struggle to budget and manage money or plan for the unexpected Not know how to make the most of their money Anyone can be financially excluded and the key to our work in this area is catching problems before they become larger and helping people become more prepared and better equipped for the future. Former Tenant Rent Arrears We have a designated officer for former tenant arrears. In 2010/11 we collected 103,288 from former tenants, our highest amount ever. Despite this however, former tenant arrears have increased by 9% between 2009/10 and 2010/11. This is because tenants end their tenancies without paying the rent they owe. If this money was paid it could be used to improve the service that you receive. Cost of rent lost due to void properties We always have void or empty properties due to various reasons e.g. tenants leaving because they have ended their tenancy or properties needing major repairs or maintenance. Each day a property is empty we do not get any rent for it and we therefore work hard to ensure properties are empty for as little time as possible. Cost of rent lost due to void properties 2009/ /11 404, ,859 Direct Debit Payments You told us that you wanted more flexibility when paying your rent by Direct Debit. We listened and carried out the following: Introduced monthly payment plans in addition to our normal fortnightly plan 40

41 Started a review aimed at the introduction of paperless Direct Debit process which we aim to introduce during 2011/12. After identifying some administrative issues we will work with the Income Management SAP throughout 2011/12 to review all processes and procedure relating to the payment of rent by Direct Debit. These changes will not only help tenants but will also speed up the process and reduce costs in processing and postage. These savings will be used to improve services to all tenants. Staff Cost Savings In 2010/11 we identified over 150,000 in staff cost savings. Some of the changes were made during 2010/11 with some needing to be phased in during 2011/12. These savings will be used to improve the services we give to all tenants. Other Cost Savings Our aim is to ensure that our tenants receive a cost effective service which is good value for money. This year we reduced refund processing from 30 days to 10 days and balance transfers from 10 days to 1 day. Average Weekly Rents (includes service charges) Average Change 2009/ /11 Central Beds Studio Flat BED BED BED BED BED

42 The Future We will: Continue to listen to our customers and will work with tenant representatives to further improve our processes thus continuing with the improvements in service delivery that we have made this year. Produce a financial inclusion strategy. Seek to create a paperless direct debit process. Review the processes we use to minimise former tenant debt and maximising collection. In 2011/12 we aim to improve the rent advice during the letting process to ensure we meet the needs of prospective tenants. For information and advice on paying your rent we have a number of different factsheets, click on the following link. Housing Factsheets Changes to Housing Benefit There are important changes to Local Housing Allowance starting from April These changes will affect many people who currently receive Housing Benefit. For details on how these changes may affect you, click this link. Important changes to Housing Benefit. 42

43 Sheltered Housing Sheltered housing is available to anyone who is over 60 years old and fully retired or is over 55 with a disability or a need for community care. Luton Borough Council has 22 sheltered housing schemes with a total of 914 properties supporting approximately 1000 tenants. During 2010/11 we made good progress towards meeting our service standards with positive expectations for greater improvements in 2011/12. Achievements Maintained a 24hour/365 days a year Warden Alarm service connection to Telelink Care Services. Answered 98.5% of all alarm calls to Telelink within the target time, with priority given to emergency calls. (This is a different measurement to the 86% of tenants who said they received a response within the target time. 86% refers to the tenants perception of response within three minutes). Reviewed Needs Assessments by producing a guide with other housing providers ensuring Equality and Diversity are a core part of all assessments. Introduced tenancy audits to help us better support our customers. Established our Sheltered Housing Service Area Panel (SAP) in January 2011 with a commitment to develop this further and expand tenant involvement within our services. We have achieved our performance targets for national quality standards on sheltered housing. 43

44 Tenants Survey Results In May 2011 we surveyed all of our sheltered tenants. We received 469 responses from our 837 tenants (56% of our sheltered tenants) and this is what they told us: Please note that, of those responding, not all answered every question. Telelink Care Services Tenants who said they received a response to activating their emergency alarm equipment within 3 minutes Yes 86% Operator gave their name 46% Caller dealt with in a polite way 93% Felt that the operator was listening to the them 90% Received a satisfactory outcome to the call 91% Overall, 90% rated the Telelink care service as good or very good, 7% rated it neither good nor poor, 3% rated it fairly poor or very poor. Sheltered Housing Tenants knew they had a support plan in place 79% Tenants said they were involved in putting the support plan in place 56% Tenants said they were contacted on weekdays as part of their support plan (Some tenants said they did not wish to be contacted) Tenants said their emergency alarm equipment had been tested within the last six months Tenants said they had been invited to attend a Sheltered Housing residents meeting within the last six months Yes 73% 89% 70% Tenants said they felt they are treated with dignity and respect 95% Overall, 89% said that they thought the standard of the sheltered service was very good or fairly good, 8% said that the standard was neither good nor poor, 3% said that the service was fairly poor or very poor. 44

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