House building giant Persimmon has been criticised over a corporate culture that creates “poor workmanship and a potentially unsafe product” in an independent review.
The company has enjoyed huge profits – and large executive rewards – in recent years, partly thanks to the government’s Help to Buy policy supporting the housing market.
But chief executive Jeff Fairburn was pushed out following a row over his £75m pay packet and in April, following growing criticism of the quality of its work, new boss Dave Jenkinson launched an independent review led by Stephanie Barwise QC.
One key problem was a failure properly to install cavity barriers – material fitted in building cavities to prevent the spread of fire – which was described as a “nationwide systemic problem”.
The review said the lack of an overarching build policy at the company “increases the risk of build defects” such as the lack of these barriers.
That issue was identified last year but even then not all potential problems were checked or fixed properly, the review found.
“The cavity barrier problem is a manifestation of a lack of supervision and inspection of the way in which building work is carried out,” it said.
The review said the company’s culture “must change”.
“Persimmon cannot afford the stigma of a corporate culture which results in poor workmanship and a potentially unsafe product,” it added.
The review found that Persimmon, which has traditionally been more of a house seller than a housebuilder, prioritised “process and inspections” around the time of sales at the expense of policies governing the build process and quality assurance inspections.
“It must be recognised that genuine customer care starts with the quality of the build, therefore beginning much earlier in the process,” it added.
Roger Devlin, chairman of Persimmon, said the company was already “embracing the review’s recommendations… through significant operational investment and procedural change”.
He added: “The review clearly shows that the surest route to improved customer satisfaction is through the delivery of consistent build quality and service and we acknowledge that we still have work to do.”