MoD apologizes for ‘unacceptable’ standard of army homes | Ministry of Defence

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That Ministry of Defence has been forced to apologize after army families were left to endure the “unacceptable” standards of housing contractors awarded management contracts worth £650m. six months ago.

The contracts had been praised by Defense Secretary Leo Docherty in April, but a letter was sent to families last week admitting several failings amid allegations of shoddy and even dangerous housing.

Complaints posted on public forums such as Facebook included holes in the exterior walls of children’s bedrooms, front doors without locks and unattended water leaks and cases of mold.

The contracts, covering 49,000 homes, were to end decades of substandard living conditions said to be driving people out of the service.

David Bowden, director of accommodation for the MoD’s Defense Infrastructure Organization (DIO), wrote to families on Wednesday and admitted they were being let down despite the Government’s promises.

“I would like to apologize to you for the unacceptable level of service you have received under the new housing contracts and for the disruption and inconvenience these errors have caused you,” Bowden wrote. “These contracts have been designed with families in mind and will provide significant benefits for families. However, it is clear that the service you have received so far falls well short of what you have a right to expect.”

Bowden suggested in his letter that soldiers and their families were arriving at homes that were not ready for them and that response times for maintenance appointments were being overlooked. Complaints were not dealt with quickly and repair jobs were dragged out.

The development highlights the discrepancy between the praise for the armed services at the Queen’s funeral and the low standards caring army families are often forced to endure.

The state of armed services housing has long been a problem, exacerbated by a decision by Conservative Defense Secretary Michael Portillo 26 years ago to leave the government paying for the maintenance of MoD properties but unable to capitalize on the increase in their value.

In 1996 the MoD sold 57,400 properties used by soldiers to Annington Homes, a company now owned by billionaire Guy Hands, for £1.7bn. and then leased them back at a discount over a 200-year lease.

In 2018, the National Audit Office said the deal had cost taxpayers up to £4.6 billion due to the huge increase in the value of the property sold. The British government is seeking to take back ownership.

The main £144m national administration contract. for housing allocations, repairs and maintenance was awarded to Pinnacle Group last year. It is responsible for providing a single point of contact for families.

The company’s chief executive is Peregrine Lloyd, a former city fund manager who moved into the outsourcing sector in the 1990s. The company’s accounts record that Pinnacle’s highest-paid executive, who has not been named, earned £320,000 in 2021, up from £291,000 the previous year.

The year ending March 2022 was said in the company’s accounts to be a “landmark”, with budget targets exceeded and agreement on the government contract achieved in what was described as a “significant step forward” for the firm.

Regional maintenance contracts worth £506 million were also awarded to Amey Community and Vivo Defense under Pinnacle. Amey’s defense arm was previously run by Amanda Fisher, who boasted she would become chief executive of the parent company in 2021 to make it profitable. The highest-paid director at Amey earned £732,000 in 2000 before Fisher took the top job.

Vivo Defence, a 50/50 partnership between contractor Serco and facility management company Equans, is yet to file accounts.

Collette Musgrave, chief executive of the Army Families Federation, which represents the interests of those in the armed forces, said: “We recognize that the poor level of service is incredibly disappointing and frustrating for army families. We have raised their concerns at the highest level to press for rapid and significant improvements.

“DIO may now have officially acknowledged the issues we have told them about, but what families want to see are real and immediate improvements that deliver the service they were promised and give them confidence that their homes are safe and secure . We hope this recognition is a first step in that direction.”

In a joint statement, Pinnacle, Amey and Vivo Defense apologized for the level of service. They said: “The new FDIS contracts are large and complex with service delivery spread across three Defense Infrastructure Organization supplier partners.

“During the last six months, we have worked hard with DIO to mobilize the contracts. At the heart of this is putting armed forces families first and ensuring a reliable service for staff.

“We know that the transition period takes longer than expected and that some families have not had the experience they deserve. We are sorry for this and we are working hard to deliver the standards of service to which we all aspire.”

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