[Lesley Roberts – Chief Executive
Darren Baggs – Assistant Director of Operations.]
The Chair noted that the i10 building had got ACM cladding on it and that the Concierge staff had no training there if an alarm went off.
Mr Baggs stated that the staff have had previous training and onsite training and that he sought to constantly reinforce this.
Concerns were expressed in relation to people who had trouble walking and it was stated that extra people could be at a property within 5 minutes to help.
The Group queried whether there was a list showing which properties had people who need additional help and whether if it was known that there were a large number of people in a certain flat with extra needs would Wolverhampton Homes increase the number of concierge staff there.
The Group also queried what the role of concierge staff was in the event of a fire and how they worked with the fire service?
The Chair stated that he understood that if there was a problem they would be able to swamp the block with staff but that the Fire Service would not want concierge staff rushing in.
Mr Baggs stated that the concierge staff ensured clean, safe and secure environments for the residents. There were 48 buildings with CCTV at door entry which was monitors 24/7 centrally. Onsite checks and litter picking activities were also carried out. The role of the concierge was to prevent fire not to fight it.
In relation to the St Joseph’s Court flood, the concierge service had raised the alarm through the out of hours call service and the control room had then taken over the chain of command and officers had been deployed.
Mr Baggs stated that blogs from Grenfell had shown that the firefighters had been disoriented and unaware of which floor they were going to so Wolverhampton Homes had taken steps to repaint all the floor numbers lower down so firefights could see what floor they are on in relation to knowing who was in a property it was stated that this could never be 100% as staff might not know if a resident was on holiday or had a visitor. The Northgate system was refreshed daily to show if tenants had any mobility issues and officers had list at St Joseph’s courts immediately and shared this with the Fire Service. It was then the fire services call whether to evacuate the building. The list was on a shared drive so easily accessible.
The Chair stated that the Council’s resilience team were looking to get a data base together based on safe and well visits so may in the future not even require that list. Mr Baggs stated that the advantage of Northgate was that the information remained up to date with people moving as this type of information could become out of date very quickly.
The Group queried how many concierge there were and it was confirmed that there were 36 so there was not one per building. It was however confirmed that the concierge staff did 48 inspections per day and one concierge could do up to 3 blocks in the area. The concierge staff worked on a 24/7 shift pattern and there were always control room staff on duty together with a concierge supervisor who could leave the control room and travel to the required estate. The Panel queried whether it was a resource issue not to have one concierge per block. Mrs Roberts stated that the cost for the concierge service was paid for over and above peoples rent so it was a service charge and that it was important to try to keep things affordable. The Service had undergone a big reorganisation under Mr Baggs to put the bulk of staff in the central control room so people could be deployed to where they were required, it was a well-respected service and Wolverhampton Homes were not aware of any desire from residents to increase the number of concierge staff.
The Chair stated that the concierge service had been very well respected and highly regarded when it was in the blocks with staff going above and beyond and that he would like to see them back when this became possible. Mr Baggs stated that he had received conflicting information regarding this and that after a certain time at night it wasn’t safe for the concierge staff to go out and they just stayed in the room. The reorganisation had improved the service and staff did not need to be at every site all the time but there were enough resources to send staff to where they needed to be when they needed to be there. The new structure showed a better use of resources than having staff sitting waiting for something to happen. It was also stated that some of the changes made by Wolverhampton Homes came from people living on the estates and they decided what level of service they wanted so it wasn’t just about resource.
Mr Bamford also stated that they were now looking to use to old concierge offices to provide additional housing.
The Group were Impressed by the service and noted that it probably benefited from the fact that Wolverhampton had tight boundaries so could get staff where they needed to be quickly and efficiently.
The Group referred back to the previous meeting when the issue of Corporate Manslaughter charges had been raised. It was stated that people who had the responsibility were very vulnerable in a corporate manslaughter case, they have to have the responsibility but need to ensure that they are not prohibited from doing what they want and need to do because of a lack of resources and that this needed to be made clear to the government.
The Chair agreed and stated that the Group needed to be looking at what was safe regardless of cost, as per the fire service approach. Protecting the public and those with responsibility for fire safety and paramount. It was vital to make sure that the right people were in place and to ensure that these people had a full and correct understanding of their responsibilities to the organisation they were representing.
The Group noted that when officers or councillors were sitting on a Board they had duties under the Directors Act and that it was important to ensure that the members understood the duties that they had. The first duty was to the Board and issues relating to finance and funding were very complex. The different roles an individual might have as a councillor and as a board member needed to be made clear. The Chair suggested that there should be training for members sitting on boards.
It was stated that every board member had Health & Safety training and corporate manslaughter training.
Mr Baggs stated that there had been a huge consultation exercise regarding ‘Stay Safe Stay Put’ which was now being reinforced further with are you ready workshops, tenants were shown the video at least twice. Once a tenant had moved in there were home checks and concierge staff would go through with them the fire safety message in their own language and also explain to them what they should to do if they needed to stay or if they needed to evacuate. There was a huge focus on preventative work.