Sue Widdowson is an operations manager within our Kier Places business, looking after our housing maintenance contract with Gosport Borough Council in Hampshire. Sue is a finalist in this year’s Women in Housing Awards and here, she tells us more about her role and what it means to her to be nominated.

“I’ve been working in the housing sector for the past 15 years and I’ve loved every second of it. Originally, I worked in-house or client side so I’ve known first-hand the pressure councils are under and also the importance and need to engage with residents at all times.

When I joined Kier as operations manager my aim was to provide a first-class housing maintenance service to the council’s c. 3,200 housing stock. I was determined to bring the lessons I had learnt working for the council to this contract and make sure we always delivered for our client and communities.

To serve the people of Gosport, we employ 60 people, with 100% of them living within a 20-mile radius of the town which is great as it means colleagues feel personally invested in the service they are providing. We also work with local supply chain partners, of which 95% are from the town and I also offer apprenticeships each year as it’s important we support the local economy and local people.

We are a vibrant, diverse and busy team and currently we carry out 12,000 repairs and respond to 17,000 reactive calls from local residents. The work we do includes responsive repairs and planned maintenance, as well as specialist services such as gas systems, electrical works and major adaptations for disabled residents. One thing is for sure, no two days are never the same!

I am proud to say we are a high performing team which I largely define by our customer satisfaction scores which consistently exceed 90%. Our compliments vs complaints are also 8:1. What’s more, we’ve carried out our work to a high standard and safely, with over 1,000,000 accident-free hours.

What we do is not easy but as we must effectively support our client and local residents, we can never get complacent. My approach is never ‘we’ve always done it that way, so we always should’ instead I am always looking at ways to further improve the service we provide. In the last few years, I’ve introduced new ways of working which has resulted in significant savings for the council and also allowed people to develop. It’s important to me that our teams are always learning and progressing and one way we have done this in Gosport is by offering training.

In my role it’s also vitally important that I listen – to my teams, clients and residents. I had a lot of feedback from colleagues to say they wanted to go digital and so we have and most of our work is now done through tablets, using software to support what we do.

We’ve also started to look at other ways to push boundaries and have introduced a waste transfer station which means 500 tonnes of waste can be diverted from landfill each year.

It’s incredibly rewarding to have headed up this contract for the past ten years and earlier this year the council extended our contract for a further five years. I never take for granted the importance of what we do and despite challenges, including COVID-19, we have provided a top-class service to residents, day in, day out.

Being nominated as a finalist in the women in housing awards is amazing. To me, I am just doing my job and when I get feedback from residents to tell me what a difference we have made to their day or quality of life, that makes all the hard work worth it.

That said, I would love to see more women come and join the housing sector – it truly is a place where you can make a real tangible difference to people’s lives, there’s so many different roles available, so what I would say to others is, why not consider it?”

This is what the leader of Gosport Borough Council, Mark Hook has to say about Sue:
“I’ve known Sue for many years and we have a great working relationship with her and the whole Kier team. The work they carry out on behalf of the local community is very much appreciated and helps to support the local economy. The workmanship is top class, response rates are extremely good and customer satisfaction is exceptionally high and credit should go to Sue for the continuous improvement she has achieved. Her collaborative approach, transparency and honesty make her an excellent ambassador not just for Kier but also for the entire housing sector.”

Take a look at careers available at Kier, here.