A report to be discussed by the Council’s scrutiny committee, tomorrow evening, estimates that it will cost a staggering £165 million to pay private contractors to deliver TDCs housing repairs and maintenance service for the next 10 years.
The current contract comes to an end in 2024 and plans are now afoot to put the work out to tender in the new year. I believe that the Council’s existing contractor, Mears, is best placed to win the tendering processing. But is the tendering of this work necessary in the first place?
The answer is No! The Council has the lawful authority to set up its own “in-house” building service if it wishes and there are , in my opinion, plenty of good commonsense reasons why it should do this.
Unlike Mears and other large outsourcing companies, the council has no shareholders to pay. Without those dividend greedy bloodsuckers the £165 million contract cost could be significantly reduced.
Also its not unusual for contractors working for the public sector to overcharge for their services. Hardly a week goes by without investigations into such scandals being announced in the media.
Even the Council’s current housing repairs contractor, Mears, is no stranger to allegations about such disreptuable activities at several councils across the country which, to be fair, the company strongly denies.
However, there can be no doubt whatsoever that by setting up its own building repairs and maintenance service, the Council could make huge savings on the proposed £165 million 10 year contract.
These savings could easily amount to £30-40 million, if not more. Setting up an in house repairs service would also significantly reduce the risk of losing £millions more from overcharging by private contractors.
Savings on this scale could be invested into retro fitting council housing stock with energy saving insulation, solar panels, and heat pumps and invested in building new, desperately needed council housing.
Also, there is nothing to stop a council owned building service to tender for work at neighbouring councils and generate additional income which can also be invested in increasing and improving the council’s housing stock too.
Last but not least, a council owned building repairs and maintenance service could provide training and apprenticeships in building, electrical and plumbing skills for local youngsters, equipping them with skills and knowledge that will always be in demand and increasing their chances of the employment in well paid work.
But sadly the report to be discussed by councillors about this matter comes down firmly on the side of tendering the work to a private contractor for 10 to 15 years.
This is a serious mistake and could only have been permitted by councillors with responsiblity for housing such as Cllr Everitt and Whithead, who would have approved the draft reports before they were made public.
I think that councillors should insist on being allowed to give serious consideration to setting up a council owned building service before hurtling headlong, into a tendering solution which will be much more costly and is open to the risk of fraud, overcharging, and corruption.
Ironically it was the Labour Party who for many years championed the growth of council housing built, repaired, and maintained by well trained and decent paid council workers. It was council housing which provided good quality homes for those who could not afford to buy, and which also helped to prevent homelessness.
Now, in the midst of the current housing crisis, we have the sickening spectacle of Labour Council Leader Rick Everitt and his housing portfolio holding stooge, Cllr Helen Whithead, turning their backs on a once in a generation chance to provide more and better affordable social housing for the people of Thanet and possible an end to homelessness too.
Instead they have chosen to enrich the already super wealthy outsourcing companies with a lucrative £165 million contract rather than getting the council to do the work itself saving tens of £millions which could be used to benefit thousands of people in desperate housing need.
Despite their self-deceptive claims to be so, this disgraceful duo are, I believe, no friends of social housing and should not be let lose anywhere near it for fear it might vanish.
Everitt and Whithead’s failure to stop the outsourcing of the repairs and maintenance work is nothing less than a betrayal of those in housing need , and a betrayal of socialism too. I, like many others wonder what the difference is between them and the Tories.
I urge Thanet councillors from all parties to demand the setting up of a working group to consider the establishment of a council operated housing repairs and maintenance service.