Agenda and draft minutes

Housing and Community Overview and Scrutiny - Wednesday, 1st July, 2020 6.30 pm

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No. Item



To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting


The Chair advised that there were some amendments to the minutes from 3 June 2020 so will be agreed at the next meeting.



Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Hollinghurst.


Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest


A member with a disclosable pecuniary interest or a personal interest in a matter who attends a meeting of the authority at which the matter is considered -


(i)            must disclose the interest at the start of the meeting or when the interest becomes apparent


and, if the interest is a disclosable pecuniary interest, or a personal interest which is also prejudicial


(ii)           may not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter (and must withdraw to the public seating area) unless they have been granted a dispensation.


A member who discloses at a meeting a disclosable pecuniary interest which is not registered in the Members’ Register of Interests, or is not the subject of a pending notification, must notify the Monitoring Officer of the interest within 28 days of the disclosure.


Disclosable pecuniary interests, personal and prejudicial interests are defined in Part 2 of the Code of Conduct For Members


[If a member is in any doubt as to whether they have an interest which should be declared they should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer before the start of the meeting]



There were no declarations of interest.



Public Participation

An opportunity for members of the public to make statements or ask questions in accordance with the rules as to public participation


There was no public participation.



Consideration of any matter referred to the committee in relation to call-in





Garages pdf icon PDF 92 KB


L Roberts introduced the report to the committee and thanked Councillor England for pointing out an inconsistency in the report, she confirmed that a report would be going to Cabinet in November. The project was started in February 2020 but Covid-19 has had an impact on its progress. The companies that were working on this project had to furlough their staff and the council’s programme manager’s contract was not continued as he was unable to continue the work required of him. There was also the additional task to ensure remote working was in place and move processes to work from home effectively across all services. The tender for the project was sent out to three companies and the local firm Aitchison Rafferty have been appointed to carry out the surveys of the garages. Obviously, they have also been affected by covid-19 but have agreed a start date of 6th July and based on the number of surveys that need to be carried out, they expect to have completed it by the end of August. The garages team have done extremely well in lockdown, they are working from home and coming into the office when required. They have dealt with 263 eform enquiries, made 93 offers, 60 commencements and 56 terminations. The council’s surveyors have not been able gain access to properties due to social distancing so they have managed to do carry out inspections of 756 garages so there are approximately 6000 inspections left for Aitchison Rafferty to carry out. The lockdown period has been used productively but have been impacted by third parties furloughing their staff.


Councillor Bassadone asked how many garages were currently vacant.


L Roberts said she did not have that information to hand but would circulate the information to the committee
                                                                                    Action: L Roberts


Councillor Bassadone asked if there was a large number of vacant garages.


L Roberts said she knew approximately 30% of the total garages were vacant. The team will need to monitor the impact of covid-19, garages might be the first thing household’s return due to a reduced household income.


Councillor Freedman ask if any comparisons had been done with the same period last year.


L Roberts said it had and it was roughly the same as last year. Obviously, it is too early to tell the impact from covid-19 but will be monitoring on a weekly basis to identify trends.


Councillor Adeleke had a few questions. Firstly, he asked if the team were still accepting applications for garages, secondly, asked if L Roberts could expand on the definition of the external programme manager and thirdly, asked if intervention was required to avoid a decline in applications for example, some garages are not compatible with modern vehicle sizes.


L Roberts said garage applications were still being processed and the team were receiving a steady stream of enquiries. The external programme manager was a contractor being paid a day rate and was signed up for a period of time to complete the work.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.


Empty Homes pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Additional documents:


F Williamson introduced the report to members. Over the last two years, reporting against empty homes performance figures has been divided into three categories: general needs, supported housing and adapted properties. This performance against the targets has not been where it needs to. A number of reviews have been undertaken both internal and external and Sopra Steria have been commissioned to carry out a review to find out what the issues are with existing processes and understand the demand for certain types of property. The demand for general needs and supported housing is quite different.

Appendix A shows the performance of key to key times since April 2014. There is a period of improved performance through to 2016/17 where the key to key time was as low as 19 days. In 2016, the methodology for collecting data and the way major works were included. Most properties are returned in a reasonable condition so can be re-let quickly but in some instances, especially in properties where perhaps an elderly resident has passed away, the condition can be poor and need extensive work to bring up to the required standard. Other housing providers would take these out of their figures and class them as major works so this has an impact on our figures. Appendix B shows the volumes in the different categories.

Appendix C details the findings of the Sopra Steria. They started the review in December 2019 using a workshop with internal and external stakeholders to map out the voids process which is complex due to the number of different contractors involved. Various stakeholders attended workshops to look at the existing process to understand if there were any opportunities to streamline the process or run elements of the process concurrently. A number of key issues were identified and Sopra Steria were due to present their findings but covid-19 and the lockdown has delayed this.


The Strategic Housing team have undertaken some analysis on the level of demand and found that despite having over 5,000 people considered to have a housing need, around only 1,200 of those have been active on bidding for properties in the last 12 months.

Supported housing schemes have proven more difficult to let and a supplementary piece of work is being undertaken to review the condition, layout and facilities of category 2 schemes. It is evident that dispersed schemes are more popular and it is proposed that a report will be brought to committee in the autumn with the full findings and any recommendations for intervention.


Councillor England referred to the number of people actively bidding on properties and wondered if this was due to people not understanding the process or not believing they have enough points to be successful.


F Williamson said one of the roles of the Independent Reviewing Officer is to understand why some properties have a higher number of bids than others. Some people wait for the new build properties to come online and some people on the housing register are already  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48.


Private Sector Assistance Programme pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Additional documents:


F Williamson introduced the report to members. This policy replaces the previous one approved by Cabinet in March 2013. The previous policy provided a raft of grant assistance, primarily based on loans for private sector housing from disabled grants to grants for home improvements to address housing health and safety to ensure the private rented sector could provide good quality accommodation. There was a low level take up of these loans and the transfer of the team from regulatory services to housing provided an opportunity to review the policy to include current central government funding and ensure the council can provide broader assistance to individuals to remain living independently in their homes. The new policy allows the council to provide discretionary support to individuals who may have a need to make their home safe, warm, secure or adapted for a medial need. The majority of the funding allocation from central government is for the mandatory disabled grant. For the last two years, the government have provided top up payments in the winter months with the expectation that this is spent by the end of the financial year. By broadening the scope of the policy, it provides discretionary allowance to provide funding to people who may not be able to leave hospital as their homes are unsuitable for their needs. There is a requirement to consult with the CCG and Herts Adult Care Services to understand where the pressures are to make decisions around those waiting to be discharged in hospital. The policy has been drafted mainly to address any top up funding that may become available and allow for flexibility in allocating grants.


Councillor Mahmood asked if the grants were available to all residents of Dacorum, not just council tenants. He asked if there was a limit on this funding.

F Williamson said there is no additional money being allocated for discretionary grants. The policy is providing the opportunity for existing funding to be used in a different way. These grants are only for private sector and not for social housing as there is the opportunity within the council’s housing stock to find alternative, more suitable accommodation. She said that its use will be limited outside the mandatory powers. It is important to consider that central government may have to look at a number of areas which may affect people who are recovering from covid-19 and may have long term health problems.

Councillor Adeleke asked if the money is not spent, does it have to be returned to central government.


F Williamson said the winter top up fund requires it to be spent before the end of the financial year. In the first year, half the money was spent and the department contacted MHCLG to ask if they wanted the money returned and they said it could be continued to be spent within the first quarter.



Work programme pdf icon PDF 106 KB


The work programme was agreed.