‘Impressive’ performance of Angus Council noted but housing improvements required
Angus Council has today been praised for reducing the proportion of households in the region experiencing fuel poverty but there is room for further improvement in the critical area of housing.
In a new Best Value Assurance Report for Angus Council, the independent body that holds local councils to account said the local authority serves its communities well and benefits from effective leadership and a clear vision. There is strong partnership working and collaboration to help deliver services that benefit local people, it added.
Since previous critical reports in 2010 and 2016, the Commission said the council’s performance has improved or been maintained across three of the four key priority areas,
- working with partners to reduce the proportion of households experiencing fuel poverty (down from 33% to 22%)
- increasing the proportion of waste that is recycled - Angus is the top-ranked council in Scotland for this
- local people being more satisfied with services than the Scottish average.
According to the watchdog, councillors show strong leadership, working well with each other, and in partnership with council staff, as they make challenging decisions. Like other local authorities across Scotland, the council faces increasing demand for services at a time of reducing income. The council has already made significant savings, but will need to work with communities to make difficult decisions for the future.
The Accounts Commission has called on the council to now focus on critical areas where improvement is needed, including housing and improving the local economy.
The Commission said: “Housing is a vital service that underpins the council’s priorities of reducing inequalities and increasing sustainability by reducing carbon emissions. The council is investing to increase the supply of affordable housing and improve energy efficiency. However, the council’s performance measures indicate a need for improvements in some areas of housing.
“The council’s performance in completing housing repairs first time and in recovering arrears are both in the bottom quartile. Its housing repairs and empty property re-let times have increased as a result of the pandemic, in common with other landlords, and this was exacerbated by one of its key contractors withdrawing from two responsive repair contracts. Rent arrears performance has declined as rates of poverty have increased and recovery actions were suspended and amended during the pandemic.
“In response the council is conducting a review of housing delivery arrangements which cuts across various service areas. Positive measures have already been taken to resolve the issues with responsive repair contracts, in consultation with the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR). The council is undertaking a review of its arrears processes with a focus on supporting vulnerable people to sustain their tenancies. The council recognises the need to balance arrears recovery against the impact of eviction, which may in turn lead to more expensive homelessness services.
“Angus Council engages constructively with SHR on performance issues. SHR met with the council in October 2021 to gain assurance about delivery of its homelessness service during the pandemic. SHR will be meeting with the council again during 2022/23 to discuss the homeless service, with a particular focus on the council’s assessment of homeless applications and outcomes for people who are homeless.
“Despite these issues, the council has seen an improvement in customer satisfaction and relationships with tenants, reflected in the housing services satisfaction indicators, with 88.4% overall tenant satisfaction recorded for 2020/21. The Scottish average is 89%.”
It added: “Capital investment in energy saving improvements and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2045 is a key part of the housing investment programme. The 25-year housing capital programme has been accelerated to prioritise delivery of these sustainability objectives, which should have a positive impact on child and fuel poverty.
“The council is increasing the supply of affordable housing through its own new build developments as well as working with registered social landlords and developers. This will create a range of affordable housing models including shared equity, social rent and middle market rent. It is also re-purposing surplus council buildings as social housing.”
The Commission has also urged Angus Council to:
- do more to respond to a significant increase in demand for health and social care services, together with its NHS partners
- fully implement, across all services, its approach to managing and monitoring performance.
Tim McKay, interim deputy chair of the Accounts Commission said: “It’s clear that Angus Council serves its communities well. The pace of improvement over the last six years has been impressive. The council is delivering on many of its stated ambitions and priorities, benefitting and enhancing the lives of local people. Now the council must drive forward change to services, to ensure that they are financially sustainable. This change must be determined by working with residents and be informed by robust information about how the council is performing.”