Emergency review launched into council service which lost six-figure sum

Cabinet member Jim Funnell said the problems had gone on for too long
Cabinet member Jim Funnell said the problems had gone on for too long

AN EMERGENCY review into a council service which has continued to lose money after an overspend of nearly £300,000 has been launched.

‘Serious weaknesses’ have been identified in the running of Adur Building Services, which primarily handles repairs for Adur Homes properties.

The council-run service recorded a £284,000 overspend in the 2014/15 financial year and is on course for a projected loss of £265,000 this year.

Cabinet member for customer services Jim Funnell said: “These issues have been going on too long. Urgent action is needed to rectify them.

“It is necessary that residents of Adur Homes get the standard of service they are entitled to.”

The service won the tender for new business managing the maintenance of Adur Homes in the east in September 2014, as well as taking on extra commercial work in a bid to bring in additional income for the council.

But an internal audit revealed problems including poor record keeping – with a heavy reliance on paper-based systems – delays in completing repairs and failure to charge for additional hours and subcontractor work.

A survey of Adur Homes tenants revealed 27 per cent were dissatisfied with repairs ‘being done right first time’.

The council estimates that up to a third of calls to its contact centre relating to the Adur Homes were to chase up repairs.

Mr Funnell told councillors at the joint strategic committee on Thursday that workmanship was ‘poor’ and complaints received were ‘fully justified’.

A report by director for communities John Mitchell read: “This report has reviewed the financial performance, management systems and customer service satisfaction of Adur Building Services.

“To have any one of these areas failing to perform to reasonable standards would be a concern for the council However, to have significant weaknesses in all three areas points to more fundamental failings in the service.”

The overspend in the service was initially feared to be £360,000 but was reduced after unaccounted income was found to the value of £76,000.

This contributed largely to the council’s overall £399,000 overspend – a figure quoted by the authority before the £76,000 was found.

Leader Neil Parkin said: “I am very disappointed with the performance of this service and we are giving it a short time in which to be turned around.”

The committee agreed to implement an emergency review into the service, along with the creation of an action plan to address the failings identified.

The service’s trading arm will cease operating and corporate buildings works will be put back out to tender as soon as possible.

A procurement of the service will be prepared after the review, the scope of which is yet to be determined.

The review will last for up to 12 months.

Monthly budget meetings are in place, with financial services resources deployed to help deal with a backlog in order processing.

The committee had earlier heard from Adur Homes leaseholder Gloria Eveleigh, of Beachcroft Place, Lancing.

She said workers worked ‘extremely hard’ and had been ‘set up to fail’ due to numbers ‘being cut so drastically’.

Mr Mitchell pledged to personally visit her to talk through her concerns and the plans for the service.

He said: “The contract hasn’t been delivered successfully and has negatively impacted on our ability to deliver a high-quality service.

“I would expect improved customer satisfaction to follow very quickly.”