By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter
A council is set to take back control of its homes from a company after councillors said they had “very serious concerns” about how it dealt with repairs.
Lewisham council is expected to bring all 19,000 council properties currently managed by Lewisham Homes back under its management by the end of 2023.
Sarah Willcox-Jones, director of repairs at Lewisham Homes, admitted the company didn’t know how many severe repairs were outstanding at a Lewisham council housing meeting on November 17.
She was also unable to tell councillors how much of the company’s £1m repairs budget was being spent on legal costs dealing with claims for compensation for problems like mould and damp.
In January, Lewisham Homes was spending 75 per cent of its repairs budget on such claims. Since then, the number of disrepair cases against it have jumped from 224 to 267.
Cllr Stephen Penfold, chairman of the council’s housing committee, said: “I’m still seriously concerned about Lewisham Homes repairs.
“I recognise that you’re all working hard and you do have a lot of problems facing you: cost of living, recruitment.
“But I propose that we note this report that this committee still has very serious concerns about Lewisham Homes repairs and would want them to come back in March to give us an update.”
The meeting heard how a series of IT problems had hindered the company’s performance in the last month.
In one incident, a computer systems outage forced staff to scribble down people’s repair issues in a notepad.
Ms Willcox-Jones admitted that technical problems could have meant residents’ repair issues were “lost in translation.”
Margaret Dodwell, chief executive of Lewisham Homes, said: “Since the end of October we’ve had probably the worst period that we’ve had with our IT.
“We had a downtime on Capital which is our system. We’ve had the roof leak in Laurence House into our equipment and then we had the WiFi [outage].”
Lewisham Homes was set up by Lewisham council in 2007 to manage its properties. The council now estimates it could save £300,000 per year by transferring control of its properties back in-house.
In January, Lewisham Homes developed a plan to tackle damp and repair problems in the 19,000 properties it manages after an ITV News investigation exposed a tenant’s dire housing conditions.
The company has estimated it needs £300 million to bring the properties it manages up to standard.
Pictured top: Lewisham Homes is based at Laurence House, Catford (Picture: Google Street View)