Letter to Editor: Delivering on our priority to fix council housing

General / Fri 10th Nov 2023 at 10:04am

Dear Editor, 

IN June, I set out Harlow Council’s five priorities for this year. Our first priority was to fix council housing and in just five months we have:

  1. Slashed the backlog in housing repairs by over 60% and we are well on track to clear the entire backlog this year. We had an entirely unacceptable backlog of over 5,500 outstanding housing repairs in June, but that backlog will be totally cleared this financial year. 
  1. Launched our tenancy audit programme to begin an annual inspection of every  council home. This will ensure both that tenants are not breaching their tenancy agreement but also that we are providing every possible support and service to tenants. It is also the first time in decades that Harlow Council has proactively inspected our tenants. 
  1. Commenced a 100% stock condition survey of the internal and external condition of council homes. This will allow proper maintenance of all council properties and ensure that less repairs are coming forward because cyclical maintenance is carried out proactively. 
  1. We’ve cut the standard wait time for a repair from 270 days to 60 days and it will come down to 30 days by March. The standard repair time for tenants has been 9 months – that is entirely unacceptable and so we have scrapped that timeframe altogether and already brought it down to 60 days. In the coming months that will come down further to ensure no tenant is waiting longer than 30 days for a housing repair. 
  1. We’ve reduced the void turnaround time from an average of 66 days in June to 22 days now. That means Harlow families moving into council properties quicker and significantly less empty council properties. 
  1. We’ve significantly reformed our maintenance company, HTS, to ensure it is delivering for Harlow residents. We have passed a significant package of reforms to change the whole operation of HTS. 

On Monday, we have another huge announcement which will see the biggest shakeup of Harlow housing policy in decades. 

On each of these points, I was told it was ‘overambitious and unachievable’. Well, we have delivered for tenants in a way that no previous council administration has – but there is still so much more to do and we are working every day to deliver further. 

This is yet more proof that we are delivering on the 5 priorities that I set for Harlow Council this year. 

I look forward to updating residents further on our other priorities. 

Kind regards, 

Cllr Dan Swords

Leader of Harlow Council

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23 Comments for Letter to Editor: Delivering on our priority to fix council housing:

james nicholson
2023-11-10 10:35:29

So, does Mr swords just expect people to wait indoors for some council worker to come round, or will they make appointments?

David Forman
2023-11-10 10:53:26

Despite setting up HTS in early 2017, the last Labour administration allowed it to limp along for years using paper-based systems that prevented senior management extracting real-time data on work progress. Labour's councillor directors of HTS in this period, including Chris Vince for 2 years, share the blame for allowing these antiquated paper-based systems to handicap service & workforce improvements. The evidence for paper based systems is in the LGA Peer Challenge Review and the following Companies House link proves Vince was a director: https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/officers/S4DtvetcAHB2nrQFZw0RFHXjrt8/appointments

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-10 10:59:45

😂 😂, I do like a chuckle. James it won't happen.

Gary Scott
2023-11-10 11:13:34

Pockets lined, back handers paid, all those involved won't be held to account until we change those in charge, same old same old, just drbble for us to suck up.

James Leppard
2023-11-10 11:42:36

Kim O'Connor, nothing will happen if Labour or the Greens ever take over. God forbid, after a decade of inertia and incompetence!

james nicholson
2023-11-10 13:23:51

Mr Leppard, with all due respect to you and the other councillors, what exactly has changed since the tories took over? I, a disabled resident am still waiting on a shower room refurb recomme ded by social services because you hadn't got the funds apparently, meanwhile you have the funds to inspect everyone's properties, or build a small area of cement for bins on grass. It baffles me how you can say nothing would change under the greens or Labour when under your governance half the shops are still shut, you spend money on fripperies and do not fight with essex cc to get the damn potholes on residential streets fixed, or for extra funding for mental health and homeless support. You are just worried people will start seeing more and more how you just care about power

2023-11-10 14:54:10

So you are saying one thing and then condradicting yourself. Why are you lieing?

James Leppard
2023-11-10 15:03:18

Mr Nicholson, please contact directly on my council email and I will look into your particular case regarding the disabled shower facility. We inherited a huge works backlog that is now being tackled in earnest. As for the potholes, thanks to pressure by this administration, our county councillors and our MP, Harlow has seen a vast road repair programme since April eliminating most of the potholes. Please contact me.

Mike O
2023-11-10 16:13:54

Mr Leppard. While I agree that there was a lot of work done repairing potholes earlier in the year unfortunately a lot of the potholes that were repaired need repairing again. So they were obviously repaired quickly and probably on the cheap. Potholes in Parringdon Road and Elisabeth Way are examples of this. We need proper repairs done that last, not ones done quickly and shoddily just to make councillors and Harlow's MP look good.

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-10 19:03:58

James Leppard, we greens haven't had a chance yet ,so don't know how you can involve us. 😂 if we ever have that chance, you can bet your bottom dollar, that the people of this town, come first and foremost, that there voices are heard in this town... (.A few examples) The river stort valley, 7,000 signatures against and counting,,, completely ignored.... tackling backlog on house repairs, I've just put in my council house a new toilet system, because all you done was replaced ball cock, thousands of us like that... repairing council homes, because your council are cutting corners ... not being able to talk to a P.T.0, officer, when your lot were cutting all our trees down... not being able to talk to any body confirming if occasion house was cleared of wild life before it was demolished... infact the people that I've spoken to from your office haven't got a clue on theses matters.... Theses are things people care passionately about.. .It's like being blocked at every turn, when all we want to do is make sure that theses things are done properly and not done just so you can, and from where a lot of us are standing, it looks pretty much like,, it's because you can.... And not turning up for consultation s, is a big one... I could go on, this list goes on. As Mark 0 said, if you fix repairs with a sticking plarster, it will last five minutes.

James Leppard
2023-11-10 20:54:29

Mike O, interesting you mention two roads I raised recently in the Council and was informed that works are scheduled to be carried out on Parringdon Road and Elizabeth Way. Don't forget that the pothole situation did not solely occur during the two years of our administration; in fact, the main election cry of Harlow Labour in 2021 was "fix the potholes". They had clearly overlooked the fact that they had presided over the potholes for almost a decade. But thanks for highlighting those two roads.

James Leppard
2023-11-10 21:06:15

Kim O'Connor, I do respect your sentiments and aspirations, but I fear that the financial and commercial acumen of the Greens, having to work within the discipline of strict budgets and needing a hard nose business approach would lead the council being totally ripped off and taken for a ride. This happened with Labour, who wasted £ millions on so called expert consultants and nothing was delivered. All this is documented. The Greens would be no different. The essence of local government is not ideology, but good management of finite resources. That is why, Harlow Labour invariably fail. They are more concerned with Gaza/Israel than how we fund Pets'Corner or build and repair Council houses, etc , and their sorry track record proves that to be the case. We have a national government to deal with foreign affairs. Harlow residents vote for councillors who are focused on their priorities in Harlow.

Luke Burton
2023-11-10 22:34:41

I completely agree with your last point about how local government should focus purely on local issues it has jurisdiction over and not foreign affairs, Cllr Leppard. Local services should be provided in a technocratic manner.

Mike O
2023-11-10 22:51:05

James Leppard. My point is that certain local councillors and the Harlow MP made such a big thing about the potholes being fixed earlier in the year, when in reality the roads were in such a bad state of repair because Essex County Council (who are responsible for the condition of our roads and run by a Tory Administration) had let the situation get so bad and there were so many that needed fixing. And then you try to make it sound like a good thing, when they shouldn't have been allowed to get in that poor state in the first place. And now, just a few months later, some of the same potholes need to be repaired again. Which indicates that perhaps they hadn't been repaired properly in the first place. Not sure that any of that is anything to be proud of.

2023-11-11 00:43:58

Please note Essex county council are responsible for the majority of the roads in. Harlow ( https://www.harlow.gov.uk/contact-us-potholes ) … bot what do you know Essex county council has been in Conservative , I repeat .. CONSERVATIVE, control for the last……. 22… yes..I repeat…22years…. Tut Tut Mr Leppard… shame on you… and your Party!! Time to get rid of these incompetent, misleading bullies..time for change

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-11 08:57:50

James Leppard. Tut tut now,what are you fearful of... LITTLE ACORNS, MAKE MIGHTY OAKS. And keep growing and growing and growing... Under your watch only thing that grows is your lots pay packet.

James Leppard
2023-11-11 09:31:13

As usual, Kim O'Connor, you are completely wrong. Councillor allowances in Harlow are the lowest among our peer group of New Town councils. Furthermore, they have been frozen for several years. You can check on the Council website, assuming you are interested in actual facts.

Julie Taylor
2023-11-11 11:54:43

The news is welcome and we are delighted at the prospect of new council homes in Harlow to relieve the chronic shortage of social homes, especially as they have an assortment of green features including solar panels, EV charging points etc. It is regrettable that the council were unable to buy the Service Bays at The Stow which has now been bought up by private developers. Julie Taylor Harlow Green Party for Mark Hall https://propertylinkassets.estatesgazette.com/images/20220104/1-99436507.pdf

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-11 11:55:05

You all need to cheak facts , the green party are getting bigger each year, what a glorious success for us last year.

Julie Taylor
2023-11-11 11:57:44

I expect someone will be able to advise whether it was before or after this development opportunity was bought by a private developer that Harlow Council purchased The Harvey Centre. Julie Taylor Harlow Green Party

2023-11-12 08:34:22

What about the damp black mould that is In holyfield tower blocks my father in law is nearly 80 and been asking the council for years to sort the problem his front room is riddled

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-12 12:14:42

That's shocking Owen, it's all so shocking that people with disabilities are stuck in theses high rise flats, as we greens found out when canvassing. And when the lifts break down theses lovely people are stuck there.

2023-11-12 21:16:37

It would be nice to see homes built and not even more tower blocks. Homes suitable for disabled people like myself, who are under 65. I absolutely hate having to live in a flat. Yes its ground floor, but its sinking and despite being told that last year this estate would get a face lift, its joyners field that are getting its 3rd facelift in the 17 years i have been in this hell hole, here we nowhave to wait until next year. Not once has there been any painting of the blocks. Been 2 years since it was noted how the slabs in the communal garden have lifted and a fence being held up and together by a metal wire n washing line. Im the only council tenant in this block of four and feel that its a waste of time asking for repairs. Nothing is done to a high standard, and been told as long as it does its job, thats all that matters. I lnow enough about construction to know that jobs done this way will NOT last long. Im sure the leasholders have more rights than me, but they do not use the garden, and those upstairs are private tenants. Come the new year i expect the neighbour opposite me will return from prison, after grooming with intent charges, i bet he will be allowed to continue living there despite the number of children and teeneage girls in this corner. With you closing the council of all but 1 service, you will likely have an influx of people protesting to have this said neighbour removed from the area. September 2019 he was 1st charged without a prison sentence, this january 2023 he reoffended. Labour council in 2019, i couldn't get past front line service to speak to anyone regarding this matter. What chance do i have now when face to face no longer exists under conservatives?? My children come first to me, money comes first to most councillors and especially the conservative party overall. Im just a disabled single mum on benefits, all the things the conservative party link to being a strain on the system. I did not choose to be disabled nor a single mum, i wish it was different, but there is no real support in this town for people like myself. If i see more tower blocks going up, i for 1 will lose all faith in the system and this town, not that i have much left. Career politicians and privatisation are ruining this town and country. Profits before people in the name of the "economy" that only benefits those at the top and their shareholders. Time people were put first.

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