Housing chief calls for estate work to be brought in-house
The fox is guarding the henhouse under system of private contractors, warns Meric Apak
20 June, 2018 — By Richard Osley
CAMDEN’S housing chief says the council must remove the layers of sub-contractors working on estates and move towards an in-house workforce.
Labour councillor Meric Apak also told tenants leaders that a system in which private contractors supervised their own work was “like putting the fox to guard the henhouse”. His comments come in a report to the district management committees which act as a forum between council tenants and the Town Hall.
Cllr Apak said that residents complained about the quality of repairs services, caretaking and major works projects.
“The bulk of the responsibility for supervising major works is farmed out to contractors undertaking those works, which is like putting the fox to guard the henhouse,” said Cllr Apak. “This is fundamentally wrong and must change, and I see the many subcontracting layers in outsourced major works and repairs contracts as the source of many of the problems we face.”
He added: “The default concept that insourcing is bad is simply a myth and I am committed to develop proposals to bring services back in-house to be delivered by a workforce and team of apprentices employed locally here in Camden.”
The issue over Camden’s use of profit-seeking private contractors to provide services is a live debate within the local Labour group. Ahead of last month’s council elections, party leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested Labour-run councils should start to roll back two decades of privatisation of local services.
Camden leader Georgia Gould said she would also be prepared to looking at making changes to switch to council-run services, as contracts come up for renewal. But some of her colleagues are known to be sceptical about how realistic the idea of creating a new in-house workforce really is, particularly if current deals with contractors were ended early.
Cllr Apak, who will be appearing in front of Camden’s five district management committees over the next fortnight, said he also wanted to improve relations with residents. “No mobile app, online form, or telephone conversation is ever going to be a substitute for direct, face-to-face human interaction,” he said.
Oliver Cooper, leader of the Conservatives in Camden, said: “Services should be procured from whoever provides them best: whether that’s in-house or from a contractor. Bringing services in-house for political reasons would cost taxpayers, leaseholders, and tenants millions of pounds as a sop to Camden’s Corbynistas.”
He added: “It’s a sign of Labour’s leftward lurch that they’re now attacking their own track record of running Camden for the last eight years. However, with Camden having 5,500 non-decent council houses – the second-most in the country – it’s important for Labour to focus on the day job of improving homes any way they can, rather than ruling out options because of ideology.”