Cllr Paul Gadsby is the Cabinet Member for Housing, and a councillor in Vassall Ward.
Next year Lambeth Labour will be using the end of its current housing contracts as an opportunity to put residents and the community at the heart of shaping the future of our housing services.
At present, Lambeth has several contracts with various contractors that form the backbone of delivering a huge amount of often unseen work across the borough. The scale is quite staggering. Every year we get through 70,000-80,000 repairs and maintenance jobs to keep our 32,000 homes and hundreds of communal block areas up to scratch. Alongside this, there are numerous projects and initiatives going on every week, from fun days for children through to works aimed at improving outside spaces. And since 2012 we have been embarked on an ambitious £450 million refurbishment programme to make sure our buildings meet the highest possible standards. This has included fitting new windows, front doors, roof replacements and communal upgrades to 16,000 homes. 18,000 properties have benefited from new lifts in their blocks, boilers, heating systems, door entry work, water tanks, communal works and electrics. Behind these numbers are real people’s lives that have been drastically improved, like Valencia, Genevieve, Flossie, John and Howard.
But while there has been a lot of good work over the years, we can do a lot better at harnessing the knowledge, experience and skills of the people who know these services the best; the residents who use them. And in Lambeth, we’ve already started doing this. Last week our first task and finish group of residents completed an excellent report after an in-depth investigation into the state of our communal repairs. It does not pull any punches of what hasn’t worked and I have accepted all 21 of its recommendations, as well as asking the residents to monitor the implementation of their own ideas.
Just as importantly, this resident report has helped sparked a further idea. Last month, we unveiled our initial recommendations for the future of housing services, once more based on feedback from residents about everything we do, from repairs and ground maintenance, to major building works and communal block upkeep. The key thread through these ideas is that we are going to put the current status quo in the bin and opt for a more flexible, less rigid approach where how our services are set up depends on the demands of the area.
In that vein, the communal repairs report has driven our proposal to set up a small inhouse repairs team, the first of its kind in decades, to focus on delivering the aims of the report, most notably better post-work inspections and more specialised forms of repairs.
Going forward, we are now opening up the design process more fully than we ever have before to residents. We have a raft of proposals, including handing over estate cleaning and maintenance to our inhouse Lambeth Landscapes team. On those contracts we may put out to tender, were following our new guidelines on responsible procurement, to make sure any future partners will need to provide more local jobs, abide by our climate change principles and invest in local estates. Monitoring will also be overhauled with the creation of a new resident lead monitoring board. More details on these ideas can be found here.
So far more than 60 residents have signed up to help with this process – but we want even more feedback to get this redesign right. If you’re a Lambeth council tenant or leaseholder, please do drop us a note of your interest at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Paul Gadsby