Gas Safety Management survey by CORGI Technical Services highlights impact of Government’s cost saving measures on Housing Associations

25 April 2013

A national survey conducted by CORGI Technical Services into Gas Safety Management has highlighted some of the impact being felt by Housing Associations of the Government’s cost saving measures, including the squeezing of budgets, shortage of staff, cuts to capital investment, shortage of tenant money and a constant review of priorities.

Carried out online between 18 and 22 March 2013, the survey questioned Gas Managers in Local Authorities and Housing Associations across the UK and there were 106 respondents, who are collectively responsible for over 1.5 million properties. The results of the survey have been published at the Gas Safety Management Conference 2013 which took place at the Belfry in the West Midlands on 24 April 2013.

1.       Impact of Government’s cost saving measures –

In response to the question about the impact of the Government’s cost saving measures, the answers were varied but focused on six main areas:-

          Squeezing budgets – “Greater value for money drive to increase efficiencies”

          Reviewing priorities – “Reducing funding for the sector, sweating assets and consistently having to review priorities”

          Cuts on capital investment – “none on safety but capital investment cut”

          Not enough staff – “Freeze on recruitment leading to under-resourced section. This has had an impact on the amount of auditing and quality control we carry out, plus no funding for external support, training budgets reduced and too much reliance on contractors.”

          Tenants short of money – “A massive impact as tenants having to move property, not heating property correctly, through to tenants less able to take time off work to allow access for servicing.”

          Safety must come first – “Safety and legislative requirements come first”

2.       Carbon Monoxide poisoning –

Most respondents had processes in place to deal with Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning and nearly half hadn’t dealt with any incidents in the last year. But a small proportion had dealt with a very high level of incidents – around 200 a year. Around 10% of respondents had no CO alarms fitted in any of their properties and even those that did have them fitted, only about 30% of their properties were currently fitted with them.

3.       Impact of CO poisoning Coronation Street storyline

Around 75% of respondents said that the CO poisoning storyline on Coronation Street in December 2012 had had no impact on their responsive service to gas escapes, but the remainder had registered a “marked increase in claims and calls to investigate CO – all of which proved to be unfounded and unnecessary” and “tenants who have refused CO alarms in the past tended to want the fitted now”.

4.       Pros and cons of an Internal workforce vs Contractors

Respondents noted that 54% of gas work is carried out only by an external workforce, 16% by only an internal workforce and the remainder using a combination of both. The majority of installation work is carried out by an external workforce, but repairs, maintenance and safety checks were carried out by both.

Claire Heyes, Joint CEO of CORGI Technical Services commented: “The first national survey of Gas Safety Management amongst Gas Managers in Housing Associations has produced a valuable insight into some of the issues currently affecting this professional body. The Government’s cost saving measures are starting to bite in a variety of ways and with the changes to the welfare system, the impact will continue to be felt across the UK. “

“There is much valuable work being done to raise awareness of Carbon Monoxide poisoning and to encourage everyone to have CO alarms fitted. The survey has given us a snapshot of the current picture and where more work needs to be done. We are keen to support any further measures that will bring the dangers to the attention of the public, senior management responsible of gas safety in the organisations and the Gas Managers who are responsible on a day to day basis.”