FENLAND: We take a look around Roddons Housing Association's new headquarters

RODDONS Housing Association took over ownership of Fenland District Council s 3,748 homes last year, but they never had their own headquarters – until now. At a cost of �1.2million, a new state-of-the-art premises has been built and is now open.

RODDONS Housing Association took over ownership of Fenland District Council's 3,748 homes last year, but they never had their own headquarters - until now.

At a cost of �1.2million, a new state-of-the-art premises has been built and is now open.

TOM JACKSON visited Roddons last week for a closer look.

FOR months it may have seemed a dream - but finally the Roddons team are all under one roof.

Since the housing association's formation more than a year ago, some staff have worked from the environmental services headquarters in Melbourne Avenue, while the rest were based at the Hereward Innovation Centre also in March.

But finally Roddons is 'open for business'. They moved into their �1.2million site in Hostmoor Avenue, March, on February 9.

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"This completes the latest stage in our journey," said Pauline Ford, Roddons' managing director.

Off the reception area is a resource centre, open for customers to use for whenever they want - for informal meetings or for research.

It is named after the first chairman of Roddons' shadow board, George Hawkins of Manea, who sadly died just after the ballot which confirmed the housing transfer, but before Roddons came into existence.

Mrs Ford said: "George was a real driver behind the ballot process and the residents chose to name their resource centre after him."

"We want to keep customers close to the business post-transfer. I do not want to lose that connection and the resource centre is one way we thought of keeping it."

Behind the scenes downstairs is the property services department, which is behind a �35million improvement programme to Roddons' homes. The scheme includes replacing heating systems, fitting new kitchens and building off-road parking.

"For me, this is an important part of what we do," Mrs Ford said. "The 46 staff here form our direct labour team."

When I peeked inside, the room was more than half empty - but Mrs Ford said she would be "worried" if it was full.

"It's pleasing to see they are where they should be," she said. "On the streets helping our clients."

At the back of the premises is the store room. This is home to some of the most in-demand products for home repairs and upgrades.

Mrs Ford said: "We analyse the many things that go wrong in homes and, with Fenland being a rural district, you cannot always rely on the coverage of suppliers. As a result, we created an on-site store."

Roddons has also launched a scheme to find alternative fuel methods for its fleet of more than 40 vans. A duel fuel system using chip shop fat is being considered.

Mrs Ford said: "We need to look at this sort of thing in terms of carbon footprint. It has got to be done the most cost-effective way possible."

Upstairs is Roddons' operations teams where, since the move, the workforce has increased by 20 per cent.

The services covered here include income management, neighbourhood management, community development, allocations and lettings and sheltered housing services. There is also a team for new builds, in charge of a strategy to deliver 500 new homes in five years.

"It will be an interesting project through the credit crunch," Mrs Ford said. "It may happen towards the end of the five years, but with 2,238 applications currently on the waiting list we know what people's needs are and will cater for their needs."

Also upstairs is the customer service centre, created as a result of a customer satisfaction survey last year.

Mrs Ford said: "We were told one area that could improve is the telephone call handling - so we created this team."

A high-tech call monitoring system is in operation, which updates the team about how many calls have been made during the day, how many have been answered or abandoned and what the conversation was about.

Mrs Ford said: "Calls are forced through. When an operator is available a call immediately goes to them - they hear a beep in their headphone and then the call comes straight through.

"In terms of the customer what is the most important thing when calling - to not be sitting in a queue. We are determined to make sure that will not happen here."

n Next week, Tom will look at the ongoing �35million programme of renovations in Fenland homes.

RODDONS OPENING TIMES: 8.30am-5pm Monday to Friday.

CALL CENTRE OPENING HOURS: 8.30am-5pm Monday to Wednesday, 8.30am-7pm Thursday, 10am-4pm Friday, 9am-1pm Saturday.