Managers operating Birmingham City Council’s call centre are to be quizzed over its poor performance.

The council’s housing watchdog committee will question Service Birmingham after it emerged it only reached its target for answering housing repair calls during one month since last April.

The company, operated by outsourcing firm Capita, took an average eight-and-a-half minutes to answer the phone in December.

Only once did it beat the target 25 seconds during July when it took an average of 15 seconds to answer the phone.

The year-to-date average since April is 129 seconds, prompting the inquiry.

Last month city housing chief John Lines (Con Bartley Green) threatened to cancel the firm’s £2 million housing repair call centre contract and take the service in house.

But he was told by city deputy leader Paul Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon) the Service Birmingham contract, which was recently extended for 10 years, cannot be dropped.

Housing Scrutiny Committee members have asked the firm, in which Birmingham City Council is a minority stakeholder, for details of staff turnover, staff sickness rates and the technology involved.

Councillor Iain Bowen (Lib Dem Acocks Green) said: “The call centre has met just one target in a year, I would like to know why it is failing so spectacularly. Is it staffing issues, or the technology?

“I understand that any call centre in the world will struggle during the massive winter peaks in demand, but the fact it can only meet demand during July is very disturbing.

‘‘At the moment this contract is not working well for Birmingham.”

At the same time Birmingham’s three gas repair contractors have been warned to improve their services following a bleak winter performance or risk losing their contracts.

Councillor Lines has launched a high level review of gas boiler repairs and warned the three contract companies, PH Jones, Mears and Morrison, they are in the last chance saloon.

The companies have been told to deal with any outstanding complaints as a priority, draw up a strategy to tackle frozen pipes.

They have also brought in extra staff and agreed to replace boilers that cannot be repaired within one week of being deemed beyond repair.

But Councillor Lines said that some problems date back to when the new contracts were issued in April last year.

Original Source: Birmingham Post

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