Council attacks Audit Commission inspection

Council attacks Audit Commission inspection

A row has broken out after a council attacked the findings of an Audit Commission inspection into its housing service.

Birmingham Council said the findings from a March 2010 inspection did not reflect the feedback the authority received from tenants, contractors and other partners.

The release of the report was delayed for 16 months – it was published on Thursday – after the council demanded a review because it was given a ‘one star’ rating of ‘fair’.

According to the report Birmingham Council’s housing service – which has 65,000 tenants – only has a limited knowledge of its customers and is not ensuring services are delivered in a fair way.

The report also said that risk management was weak and the skills of some staff were underdeveloped.

Plus points for the department were the adaptations service for vulnerable people and the support offered to tenants in debt arrears.

Elaine Elkington, strategic director for homes and neighbourhoods, said: ‘The council asked for a review of the Audit Commission’s intended published results last year as it did not, and still does not reflect the experience our customers, contractor partners and stakeholders tell us about our service.

‘Whilst disappointed, the results are in line with 70 per cent of other published scores for councils who have retained their housing stock. 

‘Since 2002/03, only two relatively small local authority landlords have achieved a higher rating than “one star” for the inspection of their entire landlord service.

‘That said, the Audit Commission’s recommendations have been useful pointers for service improvement in partnership with our tenants. 

‘Most have been implemented, where realistic and achievable in the constrained financial climate. 

‘We are pleased that our strategic focus on access and customer care has been accepted, and we remain committed to achieving excellence for our tenants and leaseholders.’

Audit Commission inspections use a scale from zero to three stars to rate authorities.

An Audit Commission spokesperson said: ‘As is normal practice, the draft inspection report was shared with Birmingham City Council in 2010. The council then requested a review.

‘As a result of the review, some clarifications and changes were made to the report, but the overall score based on evidence from 2010 remained the same.’