G4S and Serco, two of the new providers awarded Home Office contracts to provide accommodation for asylum seekers in the UK, struggled to get the contracts up and running.
Performance Improvement area(s): Investigations
DWP is working to manage the introduction of the housing benefit reforms and has a critical role to play in anticipating adverse consequences.
The Programme launch has been successful, however key risks remain such as the planned delivery of new homes towards the end of the programme period.
The use of PFI by local authorities to improve housing, usually in areas with a high need for housing and where stock condition is particularly poor, has had a measure of success. However, risks to value for money of the programme have not been managed.
“The Programme to make social sector housing and private sector housing for vulnerable people decent has made progress, and the families living in those properties will be enjoying the benefits. However, there are risks to both the Programme’s completion and what has been achieved so far if a reliable funding mechanism is not put in place to deliver the remainder of the Programme and to maintain homes to a decent standard. Hundreds of thousands of families are still living in properties which are not warm, weather tight, or in a reasonable state of repair. The Department’s efforts have been undermined by weaknesses in the information it holds.
There are important lessons here on the benefits of having clear information on Programmes when delivery is devolved to a local level.”
“The MOD is working to improve the housing stock for Service families but it will still take many years to achieve its aim of getting all families in the highest condition property. The MOD needs to press on with disposing of vacant properties so that it can focus resources on improving the remaining stock.
“The Department has given local authorities a greater financial incentive to reach quicker decisions on planning applications, with more decisions on major housing schemes now being taken within 13 weeks than five years ago. Whether the speed of development has increased is less clear. The Department should use the data collected by the National Audit Office as a benchmark for assessing its future effectiveness in improving the planning process.”
Notes for Editors
1. As part of the NAO’s examination, it reviewed the case history of 100 major residential applications (i.e. developments of 10 or more homes) approved in 2006-07 by 11 Authorities, providing for the first time reliable data on how long the whole process takes.
“Housing market renewal is a radical programme but it is a high risk approach. While there have been physical improvements in some neighbourhoods, it is unclear whether intervention itself has led to improvement in the problems of low demand. And in some cases intervention has exacerbated problems in the short-term.
“The Department for Communities and Local Government needs to make sure that pathfinders not only delivers its regional development plans, but also complements the broader regeneration of areas contributing to better schools and transport links.”
“There were two main risks to successful delivery of the Bicester asylum centre: one related to project management, such as delays, higher costs and falling benefits; and the second a change in the demand for such a facility, due to other initiatives. Unfortunately, both of these risks were realised.
“Bicester highlights the need for Departments to identify, for schemes that require planning permission, the impact of planning delays on cost and delivery using a range of scenarios. The Home Office must now move forward and consider how to get best value from the empty site in Bicester.”