Extra Care Housing down to final 3 bidders

The number of bidders for Stoke-on-Trent City Councils Extra Care Housing project has now been reduced to 3 after the completion of the Invitation to Submit Outline Solutions stage of the PFI deal.

The remaining 3 bidders  Continue reading

Newham Council want to move homeless families to Stoke-on-Trent

Reported widely on the BBC this morning, Newham Council says it can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation.

To solve this problem it has written to Brighter Futures Housing Association in Stoke-on-Trent with an opportunity for them to lease 500 homes to it.

Continue reading

Housing repairs £4.5m over budget but still award winning

While the Sentinel were reporting today that Stoke-on-Trent City Councils housing repair bill was £4.5 million over budget, Kier Stoke were publicising that had won a Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) award for its work alongside Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The company was announced the winner of the ‘Excellence in Working Together’ category for its project ‘Reigniting the Customer Experience’, at the TPAS central region finals. Kier Stoke ensured its responsive repairs service was both time efficient and cost effective, while meeting the needs of the local community. Continue reading

The Late Ray Klabou

I read today about the death of Ray Klabou at the relative early age of 63.

I knew him many years from his City Council days when he represented Meir. Its probably fair to say that at that stage in the early 80s he was considered as potential leader of the City Council.

He had all the attributes. He was intelligent, he spoke well and he was generally aware of the strategic needs of the area. On the debit side he was not a clubbable man and in a time when Labour coalesced around groups he was not in any gang. Like many he acted on his own initiative although no one doubted the brain power that he brought to a question.

One thing that he did concentrate on was council house repairs and the length of time that council housing was empty.

It is true that repairs in the 70s and 80s in Stoke were a disgrace and that a tenant could be waiting sometimes years for a basic repair. He would often wave a print off of the repairs needed like a bridal train.

What would he make of the situation now?

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Requesting Bids For £108m Housing Project

Bidders are being given the chance to explain how they would deliver a £108m programme to build 390 new homes for older people.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has placed a notice with the Official Journal of the European Union – the publication that all public sector tenders for major projects must be published to – to start the process to design, build, finance and operate the homes.

The scheme will deliver much needed ‘extra care’ housing in the city – where older people can live independently and have the option of round the clock personal care, should they require it. The scheme gives residents the chance to prepare for their housing need in the future, and provides privacy and security. The homes also have communal facilities, open to both residents and the wider community such as hair salons, gyms and cafes, to foster support networks and reduce social isolation.

The notice will start the process to find a consortium to deliver the programme, and follows an announcement at the end of July from the Homes and Communities Agency that the council’s scheme could continue, after a vigorous assessment of all PFI projects across the country.

Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, said

This is a major step forward for the programme and the scheme represents a significant investment for the city. It is a major part of our Mandate for Change commitment to promote healthy lives and make Stoke-on-Trent a great place to live.  We will also consider and encourage bids that use local suppliers and the local workforce – we are committed to bringing investment into our city and fostering job opportunities for local people.

The notice invites bidders to submit details of their experience and ability to deliver such a major contract. As part of the process, the council will hold a bidder’s conference on Wednesday 7 December, for companies to meet the council’s team and find out more about the programme. Bidders have until 22 December to submit their details, and evaluation of the bids will take place during January 2012. Building work is expected to start in 2013.

Councillor Gwen Hassall, cabinet member for housing and neighbourhoods, said

Our city has an ageing population, and these units are vitally important to help meet demand for supported accommodation for our residents. The publication of the notice is a significant step forward in delivering such a major, and exciting, project.

The sites allocated for the 390 new homes are: Holdcroft Fields, Holdcroft Road, Abbey Hulton. Former Brookwood Home and Blurton Farm Depot, Consett Road, Blurton. Former Westcliffe Hospital, Turnhurst Road, Chell. The programme will build on existing schemes in the city, including the 75-unit Rowan Village in Meir and the 100-unit West End Village scheme in Stoke.

For more information about the bidders conference, interested groups should contact Alex Brookes at Stoke-on-Trent City Council. 

When’s A Workman Not A Workman?

Pits n pots have been contacted by a concerned resident who wanted to highlight an issue they had seen with a Kier employee. Kier Stoke are the company formed as a joint venture between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and construction and support services specialist Kier Building Maintenance to take on the repairs to Stoke-on-Trent City Council housing stock in 2008.

I was going shopping on Friday in the north of the city, I went to the pay and display meter to get a ticket, while I was getting some change a Kier workman came out of a pub near the meter on his telephone. He was in his work clothes with the Kier badge on them and saying to the person on the phone that he was still on a job and wouldn’t be able to take the job they were trying to give him. Once the call had finished he went back in to the pub.

Kier Stoke seem to be going through some turbulent times at the moment. Chief Executive John van de Laarshot brought Vanguard, a ‘systems thinking’ consultancy, in to look at ways that the City Council could work smarter and save money. The first place he sent them was in to the housing directorate to look at the contract with Kier and how to provide quicker, better and more cost effective services to council tenants.

A suggestion, if I may be so bold, might be to know where your employees really are when they tell you they are still on the last job you gave them.

Senior Council Officers Shun Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke-on-Trent City Council launched their Mandate For Change in a blaze of glory last Wednesday, a business breakfast for 200 business leaders & stakeholders, printed brochures and a video, using the Take That track, Shine, (yes the one that is used by Morrisons supermarkets and without local lad Robbie on it).

The key points of the Mandate for Change are

  • Make Stoke-on-Trent the place to bring business.
  • Support and develop existing business.
  • Work with people to promote independence and healthy lives.
  • Make Stoke-on-Trent a great city to live in.

All excellent values, that if driven forward will make Stoke-on-Trent a great place to be again. If the bid for the North Staffordshire Enterprise Zone is successful this will be a launch pad to hopefully getting some businesses to relocate to the area and provide the much needed employment which in turn will help to regenerate the city.

The City Council have identified that there is not enough executive housing in the city and in a recent meeting of the City Renewal Overview and Scrutiny Committee they proposed that some council owned properties such as the old park depot in Longton park and Penkhull Farm could be used for conversion in to executive housing.

It is widely believed that businesses don’t want to relocate to Stoke-on-Trent because there aren’t many suitable houses for their senior managers. This is something that Stoke-on-Trent city Council know only too well as a recent Freedom of Information request has shown that the most senior officers don’t actually live in the city themselves. These are the people, who run the city and are currently making unprecedented cuts to your services, it must be quite easy making cuts to services that you don’t have to use yourself.

On the executive recruitment site for the City Council they go to great lengths to tell prospective senior officers how good the city is.

Living In Stoke
Affectionately known as “ËœThe Potteries’, owing to our world-class ceramics and rich industrial heritage, we’re famed for the warmth and creativity of our people. We’re also one of the greenest cities in the country, with one third of the City being green space.

You’ll discover a living, working city with a vibrant culture and friendly people, surrounded by beautiful countryside. You’ll find retail therapy and attractions to fire your imagination and set your heart pounding. You’ll discover a city that is experiencing £multi-million investment and a remarkable transformation as we revitalise and realise the potential of our people and area. You’ll find quality education and a huge range of housing options too. Put simply, you’ll discover a City with a proud past and a bright future.

Even the Chief Executive’s wife Tracy recognised the importance of living in the city where her husband was working.

We definitely want to live in the area John covers, that is the least he can do. If he lives there, he can understand the issues there.

So how many of the top officers in the City Council from the Chief Executive, Directors & Assistant Directors live in Stoke-on-Trent, where You’ll find retail therapy and attractions to fire your imagination and set your heart pounding?

According to the response given to a Freedom of Information request only one of the 22 most senior officers in the City Council lives within the city and enjoys the benefits of the services provided by their employer. One solitary senior officer, that is less than 5%. The Chief Executive and the Directors who don’t live in the city are some of the top officers who took £1.5m in salaries and benefits between them last year.

As these officers are not living in the city are also less likely to spend any significant amount of their sizeable incomes with traders in the city other than maybe the supermarket in Stoke, the pubs near to the Civic Centre and the odd sandwich shop.

The City Council would not name which officer did live within the city citing section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information act that the information being requested relates to the individuals private life rather than their public function.

We contacted a number of councillors by E-mail to ask them, To lead the way in trying to bring new businesses to the city, should senior officers, (CEO directors & assistant directors) live in the city to help promote it?

the only one to respond at the time of publication.

Personally, I think they should. Otherwise, they are, and in some cases justifiably, open to the accusation of being patronizing hypocritical. It’s good enough for everyone else but not themselves. It would also show tremendous commitment and belief.

So do you think senior officers should live within the city they serve?

0844 Number For Reporting Repairs Goes Live

Council tenants with housing maintenance repair enquiries are set to have their calls answered more swiftly with the launch of a new telephone line this week.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will operate a new service, available for customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The new number is 0844 894 0145, and it will be launched at 8am on Thursday February 10, 2011. It will replace the existing 01782 234100 number.

We are always looking at ways we can improve the service to tenants. We have 19,300 council houses, and they generate many maintenance enquiries from our residents.

The new number will vastly increase our ability to handle enquiries, it will help to reduce the length of time calls take to be answered, and keep costs to a minimum for customers.

Calls to the new number will be handled by a dedicated team who will manage the communications with repair workers across the city. They will all operate from the same office, which will help to improve the service experience for customers.

Calls to the new number from a BT landline are generally much cheaper than the old number. For example, tenants with a basic calling plan, which is available to those residents in receipt of benefits, can call the new number for 3p for the call set up charge, and then 3p a minute. The old number costs 3p for the call set up charge and then 10.2p a minute. Similarly, customers using a BT landline unlimited weekend calling plan will be charged 11.5p for the call set up charge and 3p a minute. The old number would costs 11.5p for the call set up charge and 7p a minute. Tariffs for other providers and mobile phone operators vary, and in some cases may be more expensive, depending on the provider.

We have worked hard to make sure that call charges for customers are as low as possible. With 0844 numbers, we had the option of adding our own tariff to the call charge, but we turned this down in order to keep costs to a minimum. The new number will also help reduce the time it takes for tenants’ calls to be answered, so this will help to keep costs down.

There are such a lot of phone providers that charge different tariffs, so I’d advise tenants to check with their phone operator if they want to see what their individual call charges are.

I will be talking to council officers to monitor the situation to find out that we are using the best available phone system that doesn’t disadvantage people.

Our freephone service will also continue to operate ““ customers can visit any of our one-stop shops or local centres throughout the city and use a dedicated phone to contact the repairs service free of charge.

We will also be making improvements to our email and web-based reporting facilities this year, which will further help to make it simple and quick to contact the repairs service.

Council house repairs will continue to be made by contractor Kier Stoke, which last month rolled out a pilot scheme to improve the time it takes to make repairs to the whole of the city.

A groundbreaking pilot launched last August and focused on 6,000 properties in the central area of the city. It saw joined up working by workmen improve efficiencies and reduce the time it took for residents’ queries to be responded to. For example, workmen were able to respond to a call for a leaky tap, broken gate or faulty boiler, and then look into any other issues the tenant may have had, taking appropriate steps to address them from the initial point of contact, where necessary. This has cut down on travel time, reduced inefficiencies in programming in work and improved the experience for customers.

The pilot also saw the length of time that customers spent on the telephone reduce steadily, due to council call handlers working out of the same office as workmen and improving efficiencies. Many repair calls are now completely dealt with within four minutes and the launch of the new number will help further improvements be made.

Our staff have been working exceptionally hard to drive down waiting times and delays for customers and drive up improvements to the service they receive.

The new number will mean more calls can be handled and help cut the time tenants have to spend on the phone. The pilot scheme has generated many compliments from tenants, and we will work hard to ensure the city-wide roll-out of the service runs as smoothly as possible. With such a large area to cover and so many properties to include, we ask tenants to bear with us while the changes take effect.

No To 0844!

Download our No To 0844 poster and show the City Council that you don’t want to pay between 3 & 40+ppm to report repairs.

Display it in your window, write a note to your local councillors or the Chief Executive John van de Laarschot on the back, take it to the next council meeting and wave it from the public gallery.

Show YOUR council that they should be working for you and you don’t want to have to call this number at more cost to you each time you need to book a repair or find out why an appointment has been missed.

If the information we have been given and published in other posts is correct, why at a time of unprecedented cuts are the council spending £400 a month to cost you more money to call them?

This is a lose lose situation.