Tenants scrutiny panel off to a flying start

Release Date: 31-Jul-2012
A new panel of tenants and residents set up to scrutinise housing services in Kirklees has just finished its first review.
The panel, which is run by the Kirklees Federation of Tenant and Resident Associations (KFTRA), with support from the council’s Scrutiny team, is part of a national drive to make sure landlords continue to provide quality services to their customers, now that government inspections have been abolished.

The first review looked at issues relating to communal areas in council-owned flats, including how they are managed, fire safety, standards of cleaning and issues affecting disabled and vulnerable residents.

As well as speaking to tenants and staff from Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH), which manages the flats, Kirklees Council and the fire service, panel members also visited a number of blocks of flats to gather information for the review.

Overall, they found that the areas were well-maintained and service standards generally good. The panel agreed with KNH’s approach to managing risk and fire safety and found that standards of cleanliness in those blocks where KNH had introduced a cleaning service were much higher than those in blocks cleaned by tenants and residents.

But they also made a number of recommendations to further improve communal areas. These include being clearer and more consistent about what can be stored there; doing more to promote fire safety procedures; and finding ways to include tenants and other service providers in monitoring fire safety issues. The panel also wants KNH to make it easier for residents to give feedback on communal cleaning standards.

In response, KNH have drawn up a plan to address these issues, and the panel will continue to monitor progress to make sure the improvements are being made.

Speaking on behalf of the panel, the Chair Chris Estill said: “Everyone involved in the review, both at KFTRA and at KNH, is pleased with the way it’s gone – it’s been a very positive experience that I think we’ve all benefited from.

“We’ve all had to learn a lot about this new way of working, but the honesty and openness shown by KNH and the other organisations has made the process go very smoothly. KNH have a bit of work to do to make sure standards in all 800 communal areas are consistently high, but we’ll be working with them to monitor progress and are confident they’ll do it.”

Simon Rogers, Chief Executive of KNH, said: “KNH has a long and very positive relationship with KFTRA and the Kirklees tenants movement that has helped us improve service standards over the years.

“The new scrutiny panel adds a new element to this partnership and we welcome the opportunity for tenants and residents to get even more deeply involved in shaping the services they receive.”

This was the first of a series of inspections that the panel will carry out. Future subjects include a review looking into the maintenance of gardens in empty properties, which will be presented to the KNH Board in September.

To find out more or to get involved, please contact KFTRA on 01484 223466