Harlow Council begins transformation of maintenance company HTS to improve services for residents

Business / Sat 26th Aug 2023 at 06:34am

HARLOW Council has started the transformation of its maintenance company HTS which delivers high-profile environmental and housing maintenance services in the town.

Over the last year the council has undertaken several reviews of different aspects of the HTS business, all designed to improve performance, efficiency and the council’s working relationship with the company.

As part of the transformation on Wednesday 23 August a series of recommendations were agreed by councillors at the Shareholder Sub Committee meeting. These included:

  • The focus of activity for HTS in this financial year will be to deliver the council’s priorities for Harlow tenants and taxpayers and to secure further efficiencies (savings and improvements in services) in the business.
  • A new contractual basis for HTS’s work for the council, based more on costs and performance, is to be agreed by December 2023.
  • A new business plan for HTS for 2024 to 2025 will be developed and agreed by February 2024.
  • There will be a re-structuring of the company into a single entity, rather than the complex group structure, to provide greater efficiency and focus on delivering services for Harlow. Currently there are three subsidiaries.  
  • A broadening of the Board of HTS to bring in additional non-executive directors with specific professional expertise to support and develop the company.

HTS provides services such as grass cutting and landscape maintenance, street cleaning, dumped rubbish collection, council housing repairs and maintenance. Since June, with the interim Managing Director at HTS in place, Alan Townshend, new working practices have been introduced, alongside the provision of helping to deliver the council’s priorities and clearing long-standing jobs through increased use of local companies.

The council has been pleased with the substantial progress HTS are making towards the delivery of its priorities with highlights including:

  • Reducing the housing repairs backlog by more than 600 jobs in the last 6 weeks as part of the ambition to clear the housing repairs backlog this year.
  • Increased turnaround in empty homes (voids), with 82 homes handed back to the council for re-letting to Harlow families in July and August to date.
  • Introducing new landscape maintenance processes across the town from next month that will see, for example, grass cutting and strimming works undertaken as part of the same programme.

Councillor Dan Swords, Leader of Harlow Council, said:

“I know that too many tenants and residents feel that the council and HTS does not deliver for them. That’s why transforming the way the council delivers key services through HTS and how it delivers for the town are part of our priorities to fix council housing, restore pride in Harlow and improve council services.

“We are starting to see significant changes in the delivery of services that HTS provide which will benefit residents, council housing tenants and the town. Whilst there is still much more work to do, we are now going in the right direction. There is a positive working relationship between the council and HTS to make improvements and I recently visited some of the HTS workforce to discuss the changes in the way services are being delivered. A close working relationship between the council and HTS will continue as we work together to deliver the council’s priorities for the town.”

It has also been announced that the current chair of HTS Group Ltd and its subsidiaries, Michael Harrowven, will step down from his role as part of his plans towards retirement and his focus on several voluntary and community engagements.

Michael has been integral to the development of HTS from its creation in 2016, as it has changed from being the Kier Harlow Joint venture Company to a wholly owned Local Authority Trading Company, ensuring leadership of the board and stewardship of the organisation. The council thanks Michael for his work over 7 years and his role in the recent transformation.

The council and HTS will recruit a new chair of the board as well as seek to expand business experience with additional non-executive directors into the new company structure. The recruitment of a new chair, and of additional non-executive directors, will be an open process to take place during September with appointments, hopefully, being made in October.

The recruitment process for the permanent Managing Director role at HTS will also start in September.

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14 Comments for Harlow Council begins transformation of maintenance company HTS to improve services for residents:

gary roberts
2023-08-26 07:19:37

As I suggested many years ago a council tenant or tenants and leaseholders should be part of the HTS board with voting rights. They should be elected in line with local councillor procedures thereby serving a specified term of office. Will it happen? I suspect not!

David Forman
2023-08-26 07:46:44

Where are the trade union representatives on the Board? I detect that our Conservative council much prefer diktats issued to staff followed by strike action as their model of industrial relations.

2023-08-26 08:20:07

Additional non executive directors? Will they be cutting the grass, trimming the hedges or repairing roofs?

Bruce Downey
2023-08-26 08:38:04

Why does the council give HTS authority to dump their rubbish in residents bins when we live in tower blocks? this is been going on for too long, time for this to stop.🚨

2023-08-26 08:41:19

Harlow town certainly needs a good overall of all estates bushes, hedges, trees needing a real good cut back. There has been none this year up to now, it's all closing in on us. Grass has been cut regularly but the rest of it is a jungle. It REALLY does need some attention & TLC. Word has it that HTS are holding the money not getting the employees to be able to keep on top of this town. Think maybe back to the Kier way at least it got done twice a year.

Guy Flegman
2023-08-26 10:20:04

I don’t understand why anyone thinks council tenant should sit on a ltd companies board? According to the 2021 census council tenants make up 23% of the towns population. You would end up with a large board if you take representation from every demographic group of people of similar size and no one would agree on anything, and end up wasting taxpayers money. Easier to make your input at the ballot box

Richard Adams
2023-08-26 10:24:13

You can see something is changing as I have noticed over the last three or four weeks the town looking more spic and span. Keep it up please.

James Leppard
2023-08-26 11:20:36

These measures are essential for HTS to achieve its original objectives as a LATCO (Local Authority Trading Company) to maintain the town's environment, council owned properties and the generate commercial revenue from third party business. The latter is stated every year in its Financial Statements but never achieved. It will now focus for the present on the first two objectives, which owing to poor governance had been deficient, as highlighted by independent consultants reports and the LGA. These changes to improve performance, professionalism and value for money should be welcomed.

2023-08-26 12:43:15

Richard, way in way out of Harlow is always kept very well maintained in case of any official visitors. The rest of Harlow apart from grass being cut regularly is a mess with so much overgrown of the hedges, trees prickly bushes stinging nettles etc, I've also noticed there is a lot of glass from street lights on cycle tracks & payments being smashed, beer bottles plastic bottles, MacDonald wrappers etc in & around parks which people seem to think that it's just one big dustbin, including by the paddling pool near here a disregarded giant umbrella with all the spikes on show from the employees of watching over the paddling pool. UNBELIEVABLE .where there's so many children. No one seems to care or have pride of where they live or been brought up with values anymore which is why Harlow Estates look so shabby. Maybe more of these new bins around wouldn't go a miss. I have only seen two on a round trip of cycle tracks paths & fields of where I live, the old bins are dangerous where they have rusted cracked around the bottom & would & could cut a dogs paw to pieces, I avoid them at all costs & take my dogs 💩 home. So Richard think you are wearing rose tinted glasses!!

Not my King
2023-08-26 13:22:32

You can see nothing is changing as I have noticed over the last three or four weeks the town looking more like a slum. Clear it up please. Lamp post numbers, 7120 has had flytipped items for a month so far ...also at 1183 and at 1251 Northbrooks (Guaranteed everyweek that one. HTS aware as park right next to it overnight everynight.) Oh dear. Good luck.

Richard Adams
2023-08-26 16:12:56

Jrr I wouldn't disagree with any of your comments, particularly about taking pride in the town that we live in. I do believe in giving credit where it is due and the Council do seem to be trying to change the culture of the HTS team which I think is showing some results, but of course there is a lot more to do. Unfortunately a lot of what drags the town down is outside the Council's remit to put right eg potholes and street lighting. Recently I contacted the Council about an abandoned car and it was dealt with within a week and my experience of reporting rubbish is always met with timely response. I can only speak about the environmental services the Council provides as I have had no experience of their housing services. I would encourage those people who do have pride in our town to report environmental problems to the Council's contact centre.

2023-08-27 08:47:43

People fly tip a Nichollsfield tower every day, we have asked and asked for help, but we get cameras for driving but nothing to protect our homes, as long as we keep electing the same robbers nothing will change

Paul Pegrum
2023-08-27 20:09:08

I would like to know why I pay £700 pa for a garage that has a leaking roof and a door frame that’s rotting When I asked last year about it being sorted the reply was would you like to give it up So you all may have very good intentions but when it comes to delivering the service we pay for and deserve as it’s always been you fall short

Not my King
2023-08-28 11:05:25

FAO: Richard Adams (The 16:12:56 bit) Re: 'experience of reporting rubbish is always met with timely response.' May one enquire as what 'timely' actually means in terms of, was it days or weeks or months or years? A Council Tort Notice of removal of flytipped tems due 31.07.2023 and all of it is still there this week. Report environmental problems to the Council's contact centre. Good luck everyone.

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