Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite is the Deputy Leader of Lambeth Council (Housing and Homelessness) and a councillor in Gipsy Hill ward.
In our manifesto for the 2018 local elections, Lambeth Labour made a commitment to bringing vital council services back in-house where it is sensible and possible to do so. I’m proud to say that we are proposing to relaunch part of our housing repair and maintenance services by bringing the work back in-house and focusing on employing local people to do the work, and through this creating new jobs and skills opportunities for people living in Lambeth. We are taking the decision to do this as a Labour council because we are confident that we can get the best value for money for residents, good levels of service and ensure decent rights for the staff involved.
To achieve this ambition, I presented a proposal to Cabinet on 30th November which will deliver communal repairs, aids and adaptations through a Direct Labour Organisation run by Lambeth Council. As one of the country’s biggest social landlords, with more than 26,000 tenants, we are confident we have the volume of work to make this effective and we also know that locally run services, employing local skilled residents makes this more than a job. We’ve taken feedback from our tenants and leaseholders and believe our proposal is an opportunity to increase satisfaction and support our wider aims as a Labour council.
The Direct Labour Organisation will create employment opportunities targeted at Lambeth residents and will establish new trade and professional apprenticeship programmes. We want to put in place career progression opportunities for staff at the Direct Labour Organisation, we will work with local colleges and universities to provide training to achieve this. Through this emphasis on training and upskilling a workforce that is made up of people from Lambeth, we will also be able to ensure the service truly understands the diverse communities that make up our borough, because it will be reflective of those communities. The service will be equipped to effectively provide property adaptations to support disabled, vulnerable, and older adults in maintain their independence and staying in their homes for longer. In time maybe a trusted local service could branch out to provide commercial work for private tenants and homeowners but for the time being we are set on establishing and guaranteeing quality and value for money for council tenants.
As we make these changes to how we carry out maintenance and repairs on Lambeth housing we want to make sure we are contributing to our aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. One measure will be enabling operatives working for the Direct Labour Organisation to use electric vehicles and effective journey management software to reduce emissions and cut unnecessary road transport. We hope that measures to meet our carbon neutral goals will set an example for other housing providers on how to run in an environmentally responsible way.
The move follows substantial resident involvement last year in a detailed task group review of the council’s communal repairs service. The resident task group felt that existing contractors often give less priority to communal repairs than repairs inside people’s homes and produced 21 recommendations for the communal repairs service.
The creation of a Direct Labour Organisation was also recommended by the Council’s Resident Procurement Panel – a resident-based advisory and consultative panel specifically set up to help the Council design, procure and manage its new housing repair and maintenance delivery arrangements.
As we are all spending more times in our homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we are delivering the very best for those living in Lambeth housing. I’m proud to say that Lambeth Labour is leading the way by bringing our maintenance and repairs back in house.
Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite