Executives from housing repair contractor Morrison suffered a humiliating appearance at this week’s housing scrutiny committee.
The company is a national leader in the property services industry with repair contracts for dozens of local authorities, housing associations and private firms.
So it is hugely embarrassing that Morrison is severely under-performing on its contract to keep gas central heating boilers running in 23,000 Birmingham council houses.
With just over 70 per cent of boilers fixed within seven days against the 100 per cent target the executives were forced to offer humble apologies and outline their improvement plan.
It was recognised by all present that to lose the Birmingham contract in second year of a five-year deal would do untold damage to the firm’s reputation. This is the industry which lost a major player in Connaught last year.
Scrutiny committees are often written off as talking shops, which they frequently are, but this time members bared their teeth and went for the jugular.
Councillors, who put aside partisan differences to hunt as a pack, described the performance as ‘appalling’ and ‘shoddy’. Acocks Green Liberal Democrat Iain Bowen lead the charge calling the firm ‘cowboys’ and asking if they were run by muppets.
The executives squirmed and were forced time and time again to repeat their apologies.
They blamed inadequate local management who had lost their jobs as a result – the muppets theory. Then promised to take on extra staff and turn around the performance within two months.
It was a convincing defence and held firm until the formidable Cabinet member for housing John Lines came in at the end.
He was given the floor to deliver a series of brutal blows to Morrison.
They had let him down during the big freeze last year and promised to do better but had failed.
“I gave you a second chance but we are here again.”
As a parting shot he told the now cowering executives that he would, performance plan or not, be making a decision on the future of the contract following the meeting.
All in all not a good day for the contractors, and a timely reminder of just why the scrutiny committees are there.