Housing consortium’s resident satisfaction rates likened to ‘North Korean election figures’

Islington Town Hall.

Islington councillors have compared the believability of satisfaction rates presented by controversial consortium Partners For Improvement (PFI) to “North Korean election figures”.

PFI chief exec Tom Irvine was publicly scorned in February when presenting positive statistics to the Town Hall’s housing scrutiny committee after a litany of complaints from residents in Partners’ properties.

Issues included dry rot, serious mould and damp, rotting metalwork, flood damage, odours and leaking sewage, asbestos, and unaddressed antisocial behaviour on the part of both residents and subcontractors.

Now borough reps on the housing scrutiny committee are considering boycotting future meetings with Irvine if they are again presented with figures such as the organisation’s current 96.8 per cent satisfaction rate with repairs.

When told the “good news” that Partners is on track to hit their targets, Cllr Sue Lukes (Lab, Highbury East) responded: “The bad news is none of us believe them.

“The residents don’t believe them, we don’t believe them. There is a contractual issue here about us not necessarily getting the right information.

“I’m concerned because the satisfaction rate is Soviet-style figures – it’s like North Korean election figures, really.

“We need to push a bit harder on these figures. They are not believable. Who is providing the information? There seems to be a very long chain of command between somebody contacting the office to a repair actually getting done.

“Typically [residents are saying] a repair didn’t get done, and when they did they messed it up, and [residents are] never able to find out who is responsible.”

Cllr Gary Heather (Lab, Finsbury Park), added: “What we know is a lot of angry people turn up to the meetings.

“If they come along and present us those figures again, it’s almost like we should walk out. [Irvine] really did get a strong message last year, and one this year, that it wasn’t an acceptable approach.

“It will be totally unacceptable if he comes along and does that again.”

The Town Hall is now focused on bringing the 4,100 properties managed by PFI back in-house in three years’ time.

Housing scrutiny committee chair Cllr Michael O’Sullivan (Lab, Finsbury Park) hit out at the commercial confidentiality clauses that prevent the Town Hall from knowing how much PFI spends on repairs.

Cllr O’Sullivan claims the quality of work he has seen was “not high,” citing an example of a tenant who had been visited by a contractor who was only paid to plaster by the square metre, leaving them with a half-plastered wall.

The chief housing lead at the council, Cllr Diarmaid Ward (Lab, Holloway), has called on Irvine at his next appearance at the Town Hall to bring qualitative examples of how complex issues are worked through by PFI.

PFI has been approached for comment.