Housing boss: "Services are not perfect, but we are getting there'

Reporter:

Matt Jones

HOUSING chief Clare Budden is passionate about services in the county she has lived in all her life.

She said that is the driving force behind her commitment to give council tenants the best service possible.

As head of housing for Flintshire Council, the Mancot-born mother of four has overseen a transformation in the department during the last 12 months.

There has been a reduction in repair backlogs and changes that have seen vacant properties being re-let twice as quickly.

Mrs Budden, a former Hawarden High School pupil, said: “I care passionately about Flintshire because I grew up here and all my family still live here.

“The county and the public services the council provides are important to all my family.

“When I joined the authority I was aware it was a service that was perceived to be in need of significant improvement.

“In my experience the repairs service was always the service that mattered most to tenants. That is the service by which they judge everything else.

“It is important to try to get the repairs done faster and get the backlog down and to offer a more customer-focused service by extending the working day.

“It is about making the service more available out of hours and putting ourselves in the place of the tenants.

“I know how important good quality housing and great housing services are for people’s health and well being and it is great to be able to play a part in delivering that here in Flintshire.”

New services include repairs by appointment and the texting of reminders.

Extended working hours mean tenants can have repairs completed in the evening and on Saturday mornings.

“When I joined I said it would be a two-year programme,” said Mrs Budden, who now lives in Treuddyn.

“We are just over halfway through that and when I go to tenant conferences the tenants are saying things have noticeably improved. Services aren’t excellent yet but tenants are saying there are noticeable improvements.”

Mrs Budden, who has a post graduate diploma in housing, works closely with the executive member for housing, Aston councillor Helen Brown.

Decisions and areas for improvement are also monitored by members of the housing scrutiny committee who have also been instrumental in improving the service by asking for extra funding, which has been approved by the council’s executive committee.

Mrs Budden said: “Helen and I meet every week and she has a very close working relationship with the senior management. We use that meeting to check progress and review things and to plan where we are going next.”

Cllr Brown said: “I am absolutely delighted with the improvements that have been made over the last few years.

“When our tenants tell us they have noticed the difference, that is an achievement for all of the staff within the housing department to feel proud.

“We know we have further work to do but I’m confident we will be up there with the top performers within a few years.

“There has been a lot of member involvement from councillors which helps shape where we will be in the future. It has been a huge turnaround from where we were.”

Other plans for the service include projects to assist elderly residents unable to cope with gardening and decorating and new housing provision for those who have suffered from domestic violence and for young people struggling to get tenancy.

A common housing register with the council, Clwyd Alyn and Wales and West housing associations is also being considered.

Mrs Budden, who has previously worked for Wirral and Blackburn councils and for two housing associations in Liverpool, said she looks at each complaint lodged with the service.

She said: “There are still things that go wrong. We are being pro-active and we are learning from complaints.

“Where something has gone wrong we look at what we can do to stop this going wrong with someone else.”

See full story in the Leader

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