CityWest Homes: Westminster Council to bring social housing in-house and close ‘failing’ arms-length company

Glasgow House on the Maida Vale estate. Picture: Polly Hancock

Glasgow House on the Maida Vale estate. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Westminster City Council has announced plans to bring its housing programme back in house for the first time in 16 years.

This comes as it has published a daming report affirming the need for “a culture change” at arms-length provider CityWest Homes.

Since 2002, Westminster housing services have been managed by CWH but it has been beleaguered in recent months.

The radical move was welcomed by local MP Karen Buck and the council’s Labour opposition – who have been among those vocally calling for changes amid a deluge of complaints from CWH leaseholders and tenants.

The council’s decision comes after it commissioned an independent review into CWH’s services launched by the town hall.

Today’s report, released by a council task force comprising members of its housing scrutiny committee, has also slammed CWH.

The report – which draws on the independent review from consultants Campbell Tickell – identifies problems with “the organisational culture” at CWH, and says “there was a sense of ‘us and them’ between CWH and the council and residents”.

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Karen Buck told this newspaper: ““I believe this to be the right decision and to reflect what tenants and leaseholders want. However, regardless of the management structure, the test will be whether the service improves.”

The opposition leader, Labour’s Cllr Adam Hug, told the Ham&High: “We’re very pleased the council has listened to the repeated concerns raised by tenants and leaseholders. This is something we have been banging the drum about for some time now.

“There is much still to do in order to improve the services residents receive but this is a welcome step forward.”

Cllr Andrew Smith, Westminster City Council’s housing chief said:“We’re clear that our residents in council-owned housing deserve the best service. Concerns from residents and ward councillors, which have been confirmed by an independent review and now the latest findings from the Task Group, demonstrates CWH is failing to provide this, despite action we’ve taken to date.

“We believe there is no option now other than to bring the management of council housing under the Council’s direct control. We believe that this will be the most effective way of driving through the improvements that our residents need to see.

The Westminster Labour opposition group had proposed a motion in July calling for the town hall to take this step, while Karen Buck said earlier in September she was “really distressed” by some of the cases she was dealing with in CWH properties.

This newspaper has previously reported on a family who were forced to sleep on the living room floor at a Maida Vale CWH property for five days when CWH were slow to respond to reports of a serious leak.

A formal decision on the future of CWH will be taken by the coucnil’s cabinet on October 15.