An independent review has said that residents are being failed by CityWest Homes.
This comes ahead of a formal decision on the future of the arms-length management organisation (ALMO), due to be made on Monday 15 October 2018.
The Council Leader and Cabinet have already indicated there is no option other than to bring the management of council housing under the Council’s direct control, subject to a consultation with residents and others.
The review into CityWest Homes was commissioned by the council after concerns were highlighted by residents and ward councillors, and was conducted by Campbell Tickell. It says there is evidence of operational problems which developed from weaknesses in management of the service and calls for an overhaul of the way the organisation is structured and governed. It also recommends the immediate priority must be to put residents back at the heart of the organisation’s culture, and make sure there is better engagement with them.
Cllr Andrew Smith, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Customer Services, said: “Residents deserve the very best, and the findings of the independent review show that this has not been delivered.
“We’ve been clear that the way to improve services for residents is to bring CityWest Homes back in-house.
“Working closely with resident groups and associations, we will now take the necessary steps to restore confidence. Whether renting or leasing a council property, we’re determined to make sure our residents get the service they expect so that they have a safe and secure place they call their home.”
A cabinet report was published alongside the review to help further inform the council’s upcoming decision. It sets out how serious problems were discovered with the performance and management culture at CityWest Homes, and how residents expressed “unprecedented dissatisfaction” with the service.
The council commissioned an independent review by Campbell Tickell in late 2017.
However, the council’s first priority was to improve the service and customer experience for tenants and leaseholders and, while the independent review was in progress, immediate improvement action was taken to address these failings.
This included changes to improve the customer contact centre and action to address issues with the repairs service such as a new team focused on repairing leaks.
A preliminary report was submitted to the council by Campbell Tickell in March 2018. A task group of the Housing, Finance and Customer Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee was commissioned in June 2018, and reported in September 2018. The final review from Campbell Tickell was also provided in September 2018.
On the basis of the evidence provided by the independent review, the task group, and through feedback from residents and ward councillors, the council announced its intention to bring CityWest Homes back in house on 20 September 2018.
The council is working closely with CityWest Homes employees over the changes, and will consult with them on an ongoing basis.
Media enquiries – Westminster City Council newsdesk on 020 7641 2259.
Notes for editors:
• CityWest Homes provides housing services for more than 12,000 social-housing tenants and 9,000 leaseholders for Westminster City Council. It was set up as an arms-length management organisation (ALMO) in 2002.
• The Council will undertake a review of the housing service provision and consult on the results of this review.
• Copies of the reports can be found on the Westminster City Council website:
o CityWest Homes Cabinet Report: https://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/s29431/CityWest%20Homes.pdf
o Independent reviews by Campbell Tickell: https://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/s29432/Appendix%201%20-%20Westminster%20CC%20-%20customer%20services%20and%20repairs%20diagnosis%20%20CT%20report%20020318%20v7%201.pdf and https://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/s29433/Appendix%202%20-%20WCC%20Housing%20Options%20Appraisal%20-%20CT%20Report%20170918%20final.pdf
• A Task Group of the Housing, Finance and Customer Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee earlier produced a report that further confirmed the issues at CityWest Homes referenced by residents and ward councillors, including the need for a culture change and reform of the management board so that residents are at the heart of the service.