GOOD, but could do better.

That is the assessment of an independent watchdog on the outfit in charge of Basildon’s council houses.

St George’s Community Housing, which manages the district’s 12,900 council homes on behalf of Basildon Council, got a two-star rating in the latest report from the Audit Commission.

That is an improvement on the one-star billing it received last year, but the service fell short of the maximum three stars it could have been awarded.

The Audit Commission’s full report has now been published and it includes a mixture of good and bad points.

Andrew Baggott, Basildon Council’s cabinet member for St George’s, recognised this when he said: “The service has made great progress, but the Audit Commission has identified areas where the standard of living for our residents can be improved and St George’s would be foolish to ignore that.”

The quality of St George’s website was praised, along with the professionalism of its staff.

Inspectors found sheltered housing provision was good.

Day-to-day repairs, home adaptions for disabled residents, and gas boiler servicing are being done quickly and well.

The report added St George’s works hard to deal with anti-social behaviour, and good rent collection and benefits advice services have helped reduce evictions.

The report also identified a number of weaknesses. It said the telephone system is “confused” and the appointments system for repairs “not effective”.

Rent collection is below average, inspections of estates are inadequate and leaseholder satisfaction is low.

St George’s was also criticised because much of Basildon’s council housing does not meet minimum standards set out in the Government’s Decent Homes scheme, that all homes should be warm, weatherproof and have reasonably modern facilities.

John Robb, St George’s Community Housing chairman, said: “Overall, we have improved significantly as an organisation.”

St George’s was originally told it would be given £142million funding if it achieved a two-star rating in this year’s Audit Commission review.

There was a change of heart in July, when the Government revealed no funding would be provided until 2011 at the earliest, regardless of how many stars were awarded.

The council and St George’s complained and the Government has now made a partial U-turn by handing over £5million.