Morrison under pressure as councils criticise
Repairs and maintenance provider Morrison is facing the threat of losing two major council contracts amid concerns about its performance.
In London, Southwark Council has given the contractor until the end of March to improve standards before considering its options. While Birmingham Council has said it wants to meet the firm next month amid threats to ‘consider’ its £3m deal.
Southwark has issued default notices for £1 million, the majority of which stems from work that it has paid for but not been completed by Morrison.
‘We’re not happy with the performance we’ve had in recent months,’ said Ian Wingfield, cabinet member for housing at Southwark. ‘We want to see an immediate improvement and have given them a deadline until the end of March to radically improve performance.
‘I have made it clear that if that doesn’t happen then we will consider all available options.’
Morrison earned around £9.5 million from its repairs and maintenance contract with Southwark
A scrutiny committee report into the performance of Morrison, alongside in-house service provider Southwark Building Services, said that the council appeared to be ‘paying for more work than is in fact being carried out’. The report blamed ‘inaccuracies in reporting of complete repairs’ for the council overpaying for work.
It added that it was ‘not convinced that enough default notices are being issued to discourage poor performance’ from the contractors and urged the council to raise a notice for any incomplete repair work reported as complete.
In Birmingham, the council has threatened to end a five-year contract, thought to be worth £3 million, after only two years.
John Lines, cabinet member for housing at Birmingham Council, said: ‘Morrison has not been very successful in meeting needs or demands. They have been failing for over a year and they said that they would improve.
‘I have asked them that if there is not a significant improvement then I shall have to reconsider the contract.
‘I will be looking for a meeting [with Morrison] in the first part of February. We will do the figures and work out how it has gone in the usual manner.’
Morrison created an improvement plan in December 2011 for the Birmingham contract in which it admits ‘performance hasn’t been that required’ but pledges to improve.
In the plan, Morrison said it was in the position due to, among other things, ‘inadequate mobilisation’, ‘poor management’, ‘flawed diagnosis of the cause of the problems’ and ‘lack of focus from engineers’.
The contractor said it would be employing more engineers and back office staff to improve the service as well deploying gas specialist staff to the contract to share knowledge and best practice.
A Morrison spokesperson said: ‘Working together with Southwark Council we have developed an improvement programme, which is already showing good progress in all the key areas of the service. The aim of the programme is to ensure we are delivering a service which meets residents expectations and if there are shortcomings ensuring they are dealt with swiftly.’
He added: ‘Our contract with Birmingham City Council is a partnership, and we’re pleased that by working together service is improving. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Birmingham Council for the long term.’
As revealed by Inside Housing last week, Morrison suffered losses of £12.7 million in the first six months of the 2011/12 financial year, compared with a pre-tax profit of £5.2 million during the same period in 2010/11.