Friday, October 1, 2021

West Lancashire Borough Council releases Housing & Regulatory Services Annual Report 2020 – 2021


West Lancashire's Housing Annual Report for 2020/21 has been published. The report is a summary of how the Council and its Housing team has responded to the needs of its tenants and residents in the past, unprecedented year.

Improvements and repairs

In the last year, we spent £2.4M carrying out 15,443 repairs to council homes. 95% of customers were satisfied with the repairs service and £1.6m was invested on homes by our investment programme. In a challenging year, where we had issues gaining access and staff resources reduced, this is a brilliant achievement.

Helping tenants with their finances

During the pandemic, we have seen an increase in people needing support with benefits and due to the furlough scheme have suffered financial losses.  We understand that this has been a challenge for our tenants both emotionally and financially but have supported 1919 people who have accessed our money advice service.  We also helped tenants secure £392k in paying their rent and supported tenants in securing personal income totaling £468k. 448 tenants were prevented from facing court proceedings following help from our money advice service and as a result, no tenants were evicted from their homes due to rent arrears.  We continue to work with our customers to manage arrears so they can remain in their homes and it is important to contact us at the earliest opportunity if you need some help.

Investing in the future

Eskbank in Skelmersdale, became the first Tawd Valley Development Company site to break ground in September 2020. This was quickly followed by Fairstead, Brierfield and Northfield, and a further site at Halton Castle, Westhead.  This will provide the Council with 81 genuinely affordable homes to rent through the first phase of development.

We also developed a Financial Inclusion strategy. This means that for the next three years, we have a plan that will support our aims to continue to work in close partnership with our stakeholders so that all residents have access to support and services to reduce financial inequalities across the Borough.

The challenges of the pandemic

The extra efforts the pandemic has required, features heavily in the report, including how the Customer Engagement Team, working with West Lancs CVS and other partners, set up and chaired a virtual Community Sector Open Forum, attended by local foodbanks, charities, voluntary and community groups and organisations to discuss how our communities are being impacted, the issues being faced and how we could work together to support our residents.

The report also details how the West Lancs Together helpline was set up as part of our COVID response to take telephone and online requests 7 days a week from 7am - 7pm for food parcels, medication deliveries, access to priority supermarket slots for shielding residents and signposting for loneliness, digital inclusion and financial advice. Managed by our Customer Services team 15K+ outbound calls were made to vulnerable residents.  This is an outstanding achievement of partnership working and the ongoing commitment of our staff to deliver the highest level of services to tenants and residents.

We didn’t always get it right.

14 formal complaints were received and investigated. Two of these complaints were escalated and reviewed by the Chief Operating Officer. We are currently reviewing and updating our Complaints Policy, ensuring the process is clear and easy for tenants to navigate.

But we're proud of our achievements

Councillor Jennifer Wilkie, portfolio holder for Housing Landlord Services, said: "I am very proud of our Council and this report highlights the extra lengths it has gone to support our residents though what has been an extremely difficult and uncertain time and to make sure they had secure, safe places to live wherever possible. 

"We will continue to work hard for the people of the Borough as we look to emerge  from the pandemic stronger - and confident in our ability to continue to meet the challenges that lie ahead while building towards a prosperous future for everyone."

What do you think?

You can read the full report here:

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