New deal to slash repair bills for Stoke-on-Trent council houses
CONTRACTORS working on council houses will only be paid for the time and materials used on each job instead of charging a set amount regardless of how long it takes.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to negotiate the cost-cutting changes with Kier Stoke to get better value for money from its £30 million-a-year housing maintenance deal.
Currently, contractors are paid automatically for each job completed based on a pre-agreed schedule of charges – leading to concerns that the rewards for workmen are the same even if they rush a job or do it badly.
The recommendations were made by a dedicated task group set up to review the authority's deal with Kier.
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Councillors formed the inquiry group to mark the midway point of the 10-year contract with Kier and examine 'higher than expected' charges resulting from the billing system. A trial of the new system slashed the average price of a repair job from £85 to £65. And a separate review into inefficiency in the call centre has cut the average length of a call from 12 minutes to four minutes.
Bagh Ali, chairman of the task group, said members reviewed the contract with the needs of tenants and not the company in mind.
He added: "At the end of the day our obligation is only to the people out there who receive the service.
"There has been issues and there are always rumours about the service, but the consensus of the group was that we are happy and that things are moving in the right direction."
Mr Ali said the change in billing methods was a 'common sense' move, adding: "The whole review was about going through everything to make sure we had efficiency and value."
The council is also pressing ahead with plans to save £2 million-a-year by asking tenants to watch an advice DVD and carry out their own repairs like unblocking sinks, bleeding radiators and changing security lights.
Other changes include only fixing council-installed fences if they are dangerous, making tenants responsible for their own boundary fencing.
Repair logs from a month-long snapshot of Keir Stoke's work on city council properties show 260 tenants were visited at least five times before single jobs were completed.
The authority was billed £708,922 for repairs in January after contractors made 10,078 visits to carry out 5,613 jobs.
Council tenant Annette Bellyou, of Hamil Road, in Burslem, said: "The service has definitely got a lot better.
"Gone are the days where the phones were ringing non-stop because repairs weren't done.
"A few years ago you could be waiting on the phone for half an hour but it's sorted out a lot quicker now."
Richard Wall, head of operation at Kier Stoke, welcomed the move.
He said: "Developing innovative and efficient ways of working has allowed us to not only reduce our operating costs, but also to pass these savings on to the council – savings which can be reinvested back into properties."