Consistency has been the key for north Nottinghamshire-based A1 Housing with the ALMO having recently secured yet another APSE Award. Construction Industry News recently caught up with Phil Brown, Commercial Manager, to see how the continuing success has been achieved.
“It’s the second time we’ve won an APSE Award in three years so it’s further indication that we’re on the right track,” says Mr Brown. “To win another award is really testament to the efforts of our employees and their performance so it means a huge amount to us. It’s great recognition for everybody: for the work force, for the management and for the tenants as well.
“We make sure we monitor performance to a high level, whilst the workforce is also fully committed with many of them having been here a long time, meaning they are well aware of the standards that we adhere to. These have been major factors in the consistency we have been able to achieve.”
A1 Housing was previously part of Bassetlaw District Council and became an ALMO in 2004. It is now responsible for the management of all the 6,900-strong housing stock within Bassetlaw. As commercial manager Mr Brown is part of the Building Repairs Service team and has responsibility for ensuring that both the performance and the general quality remain high.
“I write many of the procedures and policies, whilst also looking after the management of the fleet” adds Mr Brown. “We have an in-house maintenance team that carries out most of the work and we have strong staff development programmes in place to keep everyone up-to-date with the latest practices. We also look to keep the needs of our tenants foremost in our minds and try to accommodate their needs and requirements where possible. Taking this approach ensures we maintain high levels of customer satisfaction”.
A1 Housing has looked to underpin its customer-focused approach by utilising the latest technology including investment in a new Opti-Time system for the managers and the workforce. It also has tracker systems within the vehicles and tablets on which the work schedules can be downloaded, the majority of which are day-to-day housing repairs including window and door replacements. In addition a heating and mechanical team look after all the various systems including gas, solid fuel and oil, as well air source and solar heating.
“To win another award is really testament to the efforts of our employees and their performance so it means a huge amount to us. It’s great recognition for everybody: for the work force, for the management and for the tenants as well.”
Phil Brown, Commercial Manager
“Having completed our Decent Homes programme our properties are now of a strong standard and to support this we now have a major improvements programme in place to ensure we maintain our housing stock and estates to a high level. After working so hard to get the homes up to the Decent standard we don’t want to go backwards. Our main objective is to maintain our momentum and to improve further on the progress we’ve made already. A central tenet of our approach is that if we are failing in any area then we won’t just ignore it; we’ll ensure the issue gets investigated and addressed quickly. The key is not focusing on where you’re doing well, it’s recognising those areas that are underperforming and improving them.”
Supplementing this commitment to continual improvement, A1 Housing also looks for external guidance where possible and schemes such as the APSE Awards are an excellent way of tapping into a wider knowledge base and sharing best practice. “We have regular meetings with other groups where we learn from each other and spread the knowledge that we’ve accumulated,” outlines Mr Brown. “It’s extremely rewarding to be able to share the lessons we’ve learnt with other similar-minded organisations, but we’re also conscious that we’re still always learning ourselves and don’t have all the answers. Just because you win an award doesn’t mean you know everything by any means.”
As well as having an unquenchable thirst for learning, A1 Housing is keen to keep moving forward. “We’ve got strong strategies in place to make sure that we don’t go backwards,” concludes Mr Brown. “We don’t want our properties regressing back to how they were prior to the Decent Homes work but with limited budgets we need to ensure all that we do achieve’ s value for money. We are confident that our strategic approach will make sure this happens.
Looking to the future we have a variety of maintenance programmes in place to ensure the stock remains decent along with a long term strategy to improve the communal elements of the estates, improving the aesthetics and making them more welcoming.”