When we prepared for merger in 2019, we agreed outcomes that are as clear as they are ambitious for our repairs and maintenance services.
As important as our commitment to build new homes, the Group will focus investment in our existing housing stock by ensuring that homes are well maintained and benefit from ongoing improvement programmes. Our expanded scale means that we expect to invest more than £100m in improvements and repairs by 2023.
Along with responsibility for repairs, maintenance and the safety compliance of 18,000 homes and retirement living communities, we are playing a significant part in fulfilling another key merger commitment, to create improved career prospects and establish 100 new apprenticeships within our Group and its supply chain.
We have already made huge progress on those objectives.
By the end of 2019/20 we had employed 23 apprentices, with a further 16 members of staff using apprenticeships as a way to boost their skills and improve their job prospects. Anthony and Nathan are two of those apprentices. Read their stories and meet an animated version of Nathan here.
We have also enhanced the careers of the local people we employ, by introducing a five-year succession plan to retain ambitious and able staff. By the end of this year 12 employees were following development plans, learning a range of people management and planning skills in preparation for future promotion.
We invested in our housing stock, spending £31,940,000 on repairs, improvements and property maintenance during this year. We completed 98% of our repairs within the target time and as a result, more than 93% of customers told us that they were happy with the repair service they receive.
Because we are spending rental income, it is essential that we provide value for money. In 2019/20 we brought our grounds maintenance service in-house in Shropshire, following the successful pilot in South Staffordshire.
And we keep our homes safe. During 2019/20 we carried out more than 30,000 safety checks including electrical, gas servicing and fire risk assessments.
As the financial year drew to its close, of course, we moved into lockdown and I would like to thank all those customers who worked with our dedicated team to ensure that we could continue this vital safety work during the pandemic.