Paul Monforte, Head of Operations, presented the report. Lee Ginger, Director at MITIE, and Ian Webb, Senior Partnership Manager at MITIE, were also in attendance. Paul Monforte took the committee through the recommendations and progress to date in section 4 of the report. He noted that initial results of the reviews suggested that the installations were safe but paperwork for the checks had not been completed to the proper standard. Where there were issues raised from visual inspections and electrical tests, MITIE were aiming to resolve them by the end of the week.
MITIE were also validating all C1 and C2 checks, of which around 600 were remaining and these would be completed within seven weeks. They would then provide written assurance that the sites were compliant. PCM would also be carrying out independent checks of this work. Officers were working with MITIE to improve their processes, and had introduced a monitoring sheet that tracked electrical tests from start to finish.
Councillor Michael Adam asked, if officers were reporting that the systems were fundamentally safe, were there problems with the auditing process. Paul Monforte responded that, from discussions with PCM, the systems were safe though on inspection there were some issues found with the C2s. The key problems were administrative and quality assurance was not as good as it should have been. These were the areas for improvement going forward for both MITIE and the Council. The Housing department were putting in additional resource to facilitate a greater number of onsite post-inspections as well as a desktop review of twenty percent of them.
Councillor Michael Adam asked if, in practice, work had been signed-off without evidence, or proper checks. Officers said MITIE had employed a sub-contractor to carry out EICRs and while the process was safe, there was a failure in administration. Both MITIE and the Council were fully committed to getting this right in future.
Councillor Michael Cartwright said nothing was more important than the safety of residents and noted he was surprised by how few checks were initially carried out. He said he had concerns about MITIE and asked if the Housing department had assessed their competence to be the contractor for this service. Nicholas Austin, Director for Environmental Health, responded that the Council and MITIE were in a contractual arrangement. He said there were issues of quality assurance on both sides but there had been a commitment to improve and officers and MITIE were ensuring all outstanding actions were being followed up. Paul Monforte added that Housing were adding an additional management post to ensure compliance across the department
Mat Bishop, Managing Director at MITIE, said MITIE took their partnership with the Council very seriously and had invested a lot of time and resources in the service. Within six months they had delivered 100 percent gas compliance, something that hadn’t been achieved before. The team had worked hard to address the problems immediately. He noted that they stopped using the sub-contractor and MITIE operatives were now self-delivering the checks.
Councillor PJ Murphy said he was concerned by the apparent lack of oversight from both MITIE and Housing officers. He felt there needed to be a third-party audit of the checks to ensure the issues had been resolved and third-party quality control was employed going forward. Mat Bishop said that proposal was in the service improvement plan – PCM had carried out cross checks and going forward they would be checking ten percent of all new works. Paul Monforte added that Housing were looking to employ a company to carry out audit work across all their compliance areas.
Councillor PJ Murphy noted that there were 17 checks that were found to have had ‘major discrepancies’. He asked if all of them had been visited. Paul Monforte said they had and they were all found to be safe.
Councillor Nicholas Botterill noted that during canvassing visits to local estates it was common to see electrical panels unscrewed, or panels missing, and rarely seemed to be fixed. Lee Ginger said vandalism generated the majority of unsafe situations and incidents could happen at any time. It was an ongoing issue but MITIE were holding a training day for managers to show them what to look for as part of a bigger piece of work around estate management.
Councillor Guy Vincent noted that he appreciated that representatives from MITIE had attended the meeting and it showed that they were taking the issues raised seriously. He also noted that this process had taken Housing officers a great deal of time to resolve and asked what it had cost the Council, and if there would be appropriate compensation. Paul Monforte responded that there had been additional time on both sides. He said the issue of compensation had not been broached but MITIE had paid for external consultants to visit 700 properties at their own cost. Councillor Vincent suggested officers investigated if there were penalties in the contract and / or grounds for compensation.
Councillor Michael Adam, noting that the report related to common areas, asked what checks were carried out inside the flats. Paul Monforte said there was a five-year programme to test domestic properties and any empty property had an electrical test prior to new tenants moving in. Councillor Adam asked if the same sub-contractor was used for those checks. Paul Monforte said they were only used for the common areas. Councillor Adam asked if there could be same issue of signing-off work without proper oversight. Paul Monforte said the works were carried out by directly employed electricians.
Councillor Michael Adam noted that domestic properties typically needed re-wiring every 30 to 35 years and asked if there was a rolling programme to carry out this work across the estate. Paul Monforte responded that there was money available to upgrade systems as necessary but there was no rolling programme. Tests showed the infrastructure to be in good condition. Nicholas Austin said he could consult with Nilavra Mukerji, Director for Housing Services, about this and send information to members after the meeting.
Mat Bishop noted that MITIE were looking at ways to utilise intelligence gathered through delivery of the maintenance programmers and how they could inform future investment programmes. For example, repairs demand was a primary indicator that could be harnessed to help develop preventative programmes. Councillors said they would welcome more information on this.
Councillor PJ Murphy noted that the Housing department had implemented a new electrical safety policy and asked why they didn’t have one previously. Officers responded that previously they had used the corporate policy but the audit process identified it as a gap.
Councillor PJ Murphy noted that policies were only effective if they were implemented properly and said he would like to see measures or a roll-out plan to show how that would be done. He also noted that officers needed to improve the way they worked with contractors to ensure they were effectively managed and held to account.
The Committee noted the report.