To: Home Ownership Service
Thank you for the 8 letters (!) consulting on the three long-term agreements with contractors that you are looking to put into place.
I have four observations to make.
First, you may be aware from my previous correspondence and (upheld) complaints over several years, that I have regularly suffered from scaffolding being left erected but unused for many weeks, running into months outside my property. One of the underlying problems has been that in each case there was no per day cost for use of the scaffolding being run up, and therefore no financial pressure on anyone to save money by ensuring the scaffolding was only in place for the minimum number of days necessary – and conversely, that when scaffolding is in place to then make sure it is used promptly.
I think you would, therefore, be failing to learn from previous mistakes if the new contracts do not find a way of addressing this. For example, I suggest that the contracts should include an agreement in advance of work commencing of how many days the work will take and how many days, therefore, scaffolding will be left erected for, with financial penalties for each further day beyond that.
You may, of course, be able to come up with a better detailed solution than that, but I hope you will consider seriously the need to move away from the existing contractual arrangements which have repeatedly failed to ensure scaffolding is not left up for unnecessarily long periods of time, blocking out the light to people’s homes yet not being used.
Second, in response to my Freedom of Information request for details of what financial penalties can be levied for failure to do repair work properly, the list I was given included some performance failures which can result in fines if they affect tenants but for which there is no matching fine if the failure affects a leaseholder.
That is clearly an unsatisfactory situation, and I hope you will ensure it is fully addressed in these new contracts.
Third, in order to ensure that the workers on site are always properly managed and their employers fully motivated to ensure high-quality service at all times, I believe the new contracts should ensure that a significant proportion of the payments are tied to levels of satisfaction of tenants and leaseholders with how the firms have carried out their work.
As again my experiences repeatedly have shown, there have been far too many people employed to provide a service to me for whom treating me and my property well has not been a consideration. Although in several cases staff or firms have subsequently been sacked, in each case they got paid in full for the substandard work carried out. That should not be the case in future.
Fourth, on one occasion I was required to sign a ‘gagging clause’ before receiving a compensation payment and part of my Freedom of Information request regarding financial penalties was refused on the grounds that it would reveal commercially sensitive information. I believe such secrecy is inappropriate and unnecessary, as shown by both the subsequent abandonment of such gagging clauses and the recent Greater London Authority decision to avoid keeping future contracts secret for claimed reasons of commercial confidentiality.
These new contracts should therefore also avoid any such secrecy requirements.