South East Wales

Vale of Glamorgan council sorry for tenants' repair delays

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Media captionReports criticise some staff working at "half the capacity of industry standards"

Vale of Glamorgan Council has apologised after a series of failings left some tenants waiting weeks for essential repairs.

Internal reports criticise its building services team, including some staff working at "half the capacity of industry standards".

One pensioner says she was left without hot water for five weeks.

The council said it is making changes to ensure it delivers an "exemplary" service in the future.

The building services team is responsible for repairing and maintaining council owned properties on behalf of tenants.

One council report found "idle time" was being charged to jobs, other departments were being overcharged due to workers not being where they should be, extended lunch breaks were not honestly recorded and staff were using vans for non-work related activities.

Image caption Molly Conway said tenants were entitled to a good service

Another report found there were too many workers who were working "at half the capacity of industry standards" with unclear lines of management and little accountability at any level from management to workers.

The report concluded that "serious changes are needed as there appears to be little focus on delivering a quality customer service efficiency" and there was a general lack of appreciation of the financial implications of the team's actions.

According to Molly Conway, chair of the Gibbonsdown estate residents' board in Barry, tenants often faced delays on the estate before work was carried out on their properties.

"It's appalling that an old age pensioner has to wait five weeks for hot water or four years for subsidence to be rectified, which is being rectified as we speak," she said.

"It shows the length of time that people are having to wait and I feel it's very very wrong.

"If an electric light bulb goes it's very easy for some people to get up and put a new one in, but for an old person who's disabled, to be without light is very wrong.

"It's not long ago that residents voted to keep management and the workforce through the housing stock survey, and let's not forget that.

"We did it because we approved of our workforce as it was then.

"I wonder whether things would change if the vote came now? We pay our rent, we pay our council tax, and we are entitled to good service."

Vale of Glamorgan Conservative MP Alun Cairns told BBC Wales tenants had raised concerns with him about the time it took the council to carry out renovation work.

"We're about to hear what the increase in council tax is going to be for the next financial year.

"Times are tight and people want to see the most vulnerable supported, but they want to see their money being used in the most effective and proper way," Mr Cairns said.

"When we see and hear experiences like this then clearly this has gone absolutely wrong and it's obvious that public money is being misused.

"I've met with the council and I've raised this issue and they say that they have got a grip of it.

Responsive repair work

"I would hold them accountable as to why and how we are in this position in the first place... I think they just want to resolve the problem without getting to the root of the issue - to find out where the blame lies."

Vale of Glamorgan's Head of Housing and Building Services, Hayley Selway said she has been addressing a range of issues since her appointment in March.

"Working with the council's cabinet I have embarked on a change process which will include a restructure of the current management team, training and competency assessments for staff and improved processes and procedures for both undertaking responsive repair work and the quality assurance of this work when completed.

"The change plan also places the customer, our tenants, at the heart of this process.

Ms Selway added: "I would like to apologise to any of our tenants who feel they may have received a less than satisfactory responsive repair service during the early part of this calendar year and would assure them that I have the full support of the council's cabinet in implementing the changes necessary to achieve our aim of making this an exemplary service in the future."

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