IslingtonTribune

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Town Hall to take back control of council homes work after PFI clashes

Outsourced maintenance and repairs for more than 4,000 properties to be brought in-house

10 July, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

OUTSOURCED housing repairs and maintenance for more than 4,000 council homes are set to be brought back under Town Hall control.

Islington Council is currently locked into two Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts with Partners for Improvement in Islington which manages its housing stock.

Many residents living in Partners properties have been infuriated by the standard of work that has been done on their homes. And Partners bosses have been summoned into the housing scrutiny committee in recent years to be grilled by councillors and distraught residents.

Often the meetings have descended into tears and shouting.

The council signed PFI1 in 2003, covering around 2,000 street properties, in a deal that is set to run until 2033.

The second contract, known as PFI2, which covers 4,042 properties, ends in April 2022.

A consultation was launched in February on whether the council should look to sign another contract or bring the services in-house.

A report published yesterday (Thursday) recommends the latter.

Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward

The council currently delivers housing management, repairs and maintenance services to more than 25,000 estate and street property homes.

Rose McDonald, who lives in a Partners home and is a co-opted member of the housing scrutiny committee, said: “Lots of tenants have been in contact saying they can’t wait for the properties to be brought back in-house.

“I think this has shown that we should be very wary of PFI in the future. Has this experiment worked? I wouldn’t say so.”

PFIs were first used in the 1980s by the Conservative government and expanded by Tony Blair’s New Labour when they were applied to hospital, housing and school building contracts across the country.

The terms of the agreements signed by Islington in 2003 and 2006 mean the Town Hall has to pay the consortium annual sums as long as Partners hits performance targets.

Dr Stuart Hodkinson

Dr Stuart Hodkinson of the University of Leeds, in his book Safe as Houses: Private Greed, Political Negligence and Housing Policy after Grenfell, argued that the terms of the agreement and poor monitoring of Partners’ work has essentially allowed them to “mark their own homework”.

Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: “An overwhelming majority of people in PFI2 homes who responded to our consultation told us that they want their housing and maintenance services brought back in-house.

“Bringing these homes back under council management will allow us to put customer satisfaction and quality service provision at the heart of these services, while at the same time delivering value for money for all of our residents. We will continue to work closely with Partners while they continue to manage our council homes.”

The decision is set to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of the council’s executive next Thursday.

As part of preparations for the contract ending, surveyors will visit some homes in the coming months to assess their condition.

A spokeswoman for Partners said: “We feel privileged to have delivered the investment which residents needed, fitting new kitchens, bathrooms and full central heating systems and managing these 4,000 homes since 2006.

“We are pleased that residents have supported the council’s preferred option for when our PFI2 project ends and we will continue to work closely with the council to ensure a smooth transition.”

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