Housing repairs firm is ‘on course for a turnaround’

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The contractor responsible for maintenance work on a major portion of Leeds city council’s housing stock says its service is well on the road to recovery after its takeover of a troubled rival.

Big-city repairs firm Mears took over Morrison in November 2012 from its former parent company Anglian Water.

Morrison - which had a £35m a year contract to service 37,000 council homes - had been going through a turbulent period with missed deadlines and fears of a mass walkout by over 250 staff. Council bosses had forced the company to sign two separate improvement plans, and warned it could lose the contract.

But now, since the takeover, Mears says Leeds services are on an “adequate to good” footing, and staff morale is high.

Reporting to a newly set up Housing Advisory Board, the firm’s chief executive David Miles admitted there was a still a ‘red light’ alert on about a third of its services. However he said: “It was a tough year last year, but we are moving beyond that now.”

“When we first arrived in Leeds there were some big issues,” Mr Miles told the panel. “There were overdue jobs, the contract was on the verge of being terminated and generally the service being delivered was very poor. We are still a long way from where we want to be. But we are now adequate to good. The workforce is more stable and the relationship with the unions is better.

“This is a big year for us - 2013 was just about getting the basics right. For us, the next level is to get a consistently good service.”

Mr Miles acknowledged that the council “could re-tender [the contract] in 18 months if we don’t get it right”. He said a new focus would also be put on trying to “align” with the council’s housing management structure, which has seen services move in-house from the previous arms-length management organisation (ALMO) arrangement.

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