After 16 years of PFI, control of homes is taken back ‘in house’

Private consortium insists it has done a good job, but residents back the switch

Thursday, 14th April — By Megan Dean

Islington Town Hall

BY MEGAN DEAN

MORE than 4,000 social homes were brought back under the direct control of Islington Council last week following the end of a controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract.

The 16-year deal struck in 2006 saw a private sector consortium, Partners for Improvement in Islington (Partners), take over repairs, maintenance, major works and resident liaison for 2,800 tenants and 1,200 leaseholders, mainly living in ­council-owned street properties.

The decision to bring the contract back in-house was made following a residents’ consultation in 2020, which saw 91 per cent of respondents say they wanted management of the properties returned to Islington Council.

Partners said the contract was ending “as intended” and said it had worked closely with the council to ensure “a smooth transition of service for residents”.

Samantha Hunt, whose home in Upper Holloway came under the PFI2 contract, told the Tribune she had faced several issues with Partners’ services since moving into the property – some of which are ongoing.

“I can happily say I’m glad to say goodbye to Partners for Improve­ment,” Ms Hunt said. “Hopefully Islington Council will do better.”

Wilma Cullen, a resident in Canonbury East, said she had never supported the decision to use a PFI initiative to maintain Islington’s housing stock – arguing that the introduction of “middle tier management” had “cost the council millions of pounds”.

But while Ms Cullen is glad the contract has now come back in-house, she warned that the council must “ensure the management team are up to the task and do not let things slide”, adding: “The jury is out.”

Last year, the Town Hall surveyed 45 per cent of properties maintained by Partners under the PFI2 contract.

The results uncovered £466,000 of repairs, including 203 cases of damp, prompting the council to urge tenants to raise repair issues with Partners ahead of the hand-back.

However, Partners said a report by Ridge, an independent surveying consultancy, found that the homes were handed back to the council “in better than average condition, with among the lowest proportion of catch-up repairs they have ever seen”.

Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Islington’s cabinet member for housing and development, told the Tribune he was “absolutely delighted” that the management of the homes was being brought in-house.

“This is a very exciting time and I look forward to working with tenants and leaseholders to make this a brilliant success,” he said.

The decision to take over the contract is in line with the council’s wider in-house by default policy.

It means Islington council now has management responsibilities for almost 30,000 properties across the borough.

They have reassured residents that last week’s change of management will not affect social rent rates.

A second 30-year PFI contract, signed with Partners in 2003, will continue to cover 2,000 properties in Islington until its expiration in 2033.

A spokesperson for Partners said: “The completion date was agreed in 2006 as part of the original contract, so the PFI2 project has ended as it was intended.

“We are pleased that through the PFI project the council has been able to retain ownership of thousands of homes in street properties, which in 2006 were desperately in need of investment and are now being handed back in good condition.”

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