Agenda and draft minutes

Housing and Community Overview and Scrutiny
Wednesday, 6th November, 2019 7.30 pm

Venue: Conference Room 2 - The Forum. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

Items
No. Item

78.

Minutes

To confirm the minutes from the previous meeting

Minutes:

The minutes from 09 October 2019 were agreed as correct and then signed by the Chairman.

 

79.

Apologies for absence

To receive any apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Cllrs Bassadone, Oguchi and Barry.  Cllr Adeleke advised that Cllr Imarni will be a little bit late and that he will Chair until she arrives.

 

80.

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]

 

Minutes:

 

Cllr Adeleke declared that he occupied a Council garage.

 

 

81.

Public Participation

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

Minutes:

None

82.

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

Minutes:

None

83.

Budget Monitoring Q2 pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

F Jump presented the quarter two budget information and asked Committee for any questions.

 

The Chairman arrived.

 

Cllr England mentioned that we discussed garages in September but there was similar pressure against income but the maintenance was still continuing a little bit better than it seems to have been done in the intervening period.  Cllr England asked about the timescales of all of this because we seem to be haemorrhaging a little bit of money but I can’t see how quickly we are addressing this.  F Williamson advised that a project manager that was mentioned, in respect of someone coming in to oversee the garage project has started.  He joined us on Monday and has already compiled a lot of information in respect of the condition of the garages coming through to the stock condition survey, but we are also looking at demand.  Next week we will be undertaking telephone survey of all the people who have registered an interest in garages to get further information on that, with the aim of trying to get as many garages let to those people who are already interested.  Following on from that he’s got another recommendation that will be going to Corporate Management Team next week.  L Roberts added that for the period of time that he’s here he will be reporting to her, because he has been brought in under the New Normal banner.  He’s a very experienced consultant, very enthusiastic and making good progress.  Also she has mentioned before that there is some analysis that’s already in the budget so he will be making use of that as well as interrogating some of the data that they are due to collect in the next coming weeks.  L Roberts confirmed that she and F Williamson are working very closely on the project, so it’s one of our top priorities at the moment.

 

Cllr England asked for clarification that we are now listing live availability of garages.  L Roberts confirmed that we are.

 

Cllr Freedman queried where almost all lines of the capital project lives in the slippage and asked if there was a way we could alter it so that effectively if you need to phase it to when the Council needs to have the resources available to be able to build things, but we had another part on the realistic expectation on the side, would help to be able to read this.  If that’s not possible maybe having something that would actually giving predictions of any actual overspends, the way I’m reading this at the moment, every time I’m seeing the slippage, I’m thinking there’s potentially bad news that we’re not going to see until the last year that something is reported.  It might make the report a little bit easier.  F Jump said we can certainly address those points, in the capital information you are presented, it’s not necessarily that straightforward to analyse.  We do try and identify the in year variance, so you’re right we do the in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 83.

84.

Housing Q2 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

F Williamson updated Committee on the quarter two performance report for Housing and asked if there were any questions.

 

Cllr Hollinghurst queried the 90 people could have been made homeless due to having an order or an action Fire and Rescue Service, of course nobody wants anybody to be temporarily or otherwise put out of their dwelling, there must have been a reason for that and at first sight it would appear that 90 people were judged to be at some additional risk of fire hazard.  Cllr Hollinghurst said that he’s not saying the incorrect decision was taken but he is asking that if during the period it took from the Fire Services order until the work was actually completed, whether any mitigating actions taken by the Council for example, were Fire Wardens provided in respect of those properties.  F Williamson clarified that the Council’s involvement in this was that we worked very closely with the Fire Service because, in terms of our statutory obligations we would be in a position to take enforcement action if the landlord didn’t undertake suitable and appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the residents.  The initial action that was taken by the landlord was to set up waking watches and then the fire alarm system in the block has been upgraded, there were a number of leaseholders within the block so they had to make contact with them to gain access to their premises as well.  The landlord worked tirelessly to undertake that part of the work and also the remainder of the work that the Fire Service have identified is already underway, because they have engaged with us and have put the necessary level of measures in place, we haven’t had to take enforcement action and the Fire Service have been working very closely with us and praised the actions of the Enforcement Team in terms of making sure all actions were proportionate that reduced that risk.

 

Cllr Pringle said that it was mentioned that an increasing number of people were presenting as homeless and they were increasingly vulnerable and would like to explore the nature of the vulnerabilities, is it particular disabilities or age and is it related to a systemic difficulty accessing  systems, whether it’s applying for houses, applying for universal credit, some people don’t have the concentration span or the ability to navigate complex systems, is it to do with private landlords tenants being more vulnerable, what is the driver and is there anything seasonal about it or is it actually more than what would be expected seasonally.  F Williamson highlighted this is a countywide issue, the reports are showing that a percentage of homeless presentation in various groups, there has been an increase in single people who are presenting homeless, a number of those have either drug or alcohol dependency, a number have mental health issues.  With some it’s a very complex set of circumstances, so it can be a relationship breakdown, a loss of job and therefore  ...  view the full minutes text for item 84.

85.

Children Services and Community Safety Partnership, Customer Services, The Old Town Hall, Communications and Community Partnerships Q2 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

M Rawdon provided the quarter two update for his services and asked Committee for any questions.

 

Cllr England said he had recently telephoned the Housing Service and waited 20 minutes and queried if this an example of one, obviously it’s not really average, but it was just my experience.  Is that typical and is the five minutes an average across all phone calls to the Council.  M Rawdon replied that it was an average across all of the phone calls.  You have peak periods where you have a wait that could be up to that time and then there are occasions when we can answer within the five minutes to achieve the target, but across the piece that is the average wait time.

 

Cllr Hollinghurst asked if there are any statistics on the number of calls that people make to the authority that are dropped by the incoming caller.  M Rawdon confirmed that we did.  Cllr Hollinghurst said perhaps because they were waiting a long time.  M Rawdon replied that we have an abandoned rate which is KPI CSU 11 call handling abandoned rate, so we have a target of 20% and this quarter it’s 14.7%.  We do have the opportunity and we have bought it in within the last six months, where if it is particularly busy we do offer a call back, where there is an opportunity where we have staff available and it’s within a certain period of time, we can enable that call back to happen, people can request a call back and we will call back within that working day.

 

Cllr Mahmood mentioned the Old Town Hall has very good satisfaction rates and everyone seems happy, 90 % range.  In terms of numbers attending are there a lot more people attending or has it gone up or down.  M Rawdon said that for this quarter it will be particularly low because we are over July and August there’s not many live performances, it’s about getting the building correctly maintained.  We had a presentation at the last Scrutiny and we sent a set of slides out which detailed performance numbers and gave a flavour of how successful it’s been.  M Rawdon will re-send if you haven’t seen them but believe they were emailed out.  Cllr Mahmood said it was something very useful for the community and it’s nice to know it is going well and is successful. 

 

Cllr England gave an observation on how the report seems to be like an extended edition of Members News, there’s lots of mish mash of the good bits, but in terms of comments on the performance of the service, I probably would have hoped to have the aspirations for improvement or perhaps a reference to the fact that the attendance at the adventure playgrounds is down or a comment.  The way it’s presented is very fair because it did refer to the things that you want to improve, but actually if you just read the report you wouldn’t pick  ...  view the full minutes text for item 85.

86.

Flexible Tenancy Update pdf icon PDF 119 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

V Cunningham gave the update on flexible tenancies and asked Committee for questions.

 

Cllr Pringle advised she had been reading about the fixed term, it seemed that there was unintended consequences and was a little bit concerned although you are proposing to remove the shorter term and extending it to a fixed term, she is concerned about the criteria if the household had more than £16,000 saving, or a combined income of over £60,000 then they would be required to move on, would that still apply with these longer term tenancies when they came to be reviewed.  Cllr Pringle was concerned that families grow up and quite often young adults remain at home because they are saving up for somewhere to move to or to go to University and there could be a perverse incentive that if people have this information, have saved over £16,000 or that their combined income is over £60,000 they maybe they won’t save to go to University or improve their life or maybe Mum won’t take a promotion at work because their teenage child has started to have an income and they want to keep their income low.  It incentivises people not to actually aspire to improving their income.  Cllr Pringle asked what complex analysis could be done because for example we talked earlier about complex problems of homelessness, the peak age for developing mental illness is 23 and young adulthood actually a very vulnerable time in peoples lives and it’s much more cost effective to have a young adult living in a bedroom in their family home, than to move out and require a one bedroom property.  Is it just an absolute this is the combined family income or would the young adults income be considered not to be part of the household income, because quite often you might have a young adult and then primary school children in the same house and the family might become very stressed about what the implications of the young adult continuing to live in the security of the family home.  A lot of people will presume that their children will continue to live with them until they were secure from feeling the need to ask them to leave because they jeopardise the loss of the family home.  Has this been factored in.  V Cunningham advised that the income requirements is just the tenants not the tenants children.  Cllr Pringle said it came across as household in the report.  V Cunningham highlighted that if it’s a joint tenancy or sole tenancy and that’s the same that’s on the Allocations Policy, so it works hand in hand with that.

 

L Warden added that if the tenants have over £16,000 at the end of the flexible period will be asked to move out into the private sector, that’s the current position that we have, what we are proposing and looking to move forward to is secure tenancies which means that there is no criteria, tenancies will continue for the lifetime  ...  view the full minutes text for item 86.

87.

Rents and Other Charges pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

S Mogan updated Committee on rents and other charges report and asked Committee for any questions.

 

Cllr Freedman said he was interested in the examples that had been used for service charges in the report, for example you’ve used sprinkler systems would be considered a service charge because it’s a benefit to the tenants.  Cllr Freedman felt it was a good example of something that a landlord should be providing and would challenge whether costs like that should be included in the service charges.  L Warden replied that there is a list of approved services that are considered under a service charge, at the moment we have very few sprinkler systems, but they require quite a lot of additional maintenance and upkeep and yes it is the responsibility as the landlord to provide that but that doesn’t change the fact that we also have pay for that service.  That is something that we can pass on to tenants, because otherwise all of our tenants would covering the charges of that through normal rent, but they wouldn’t be receiving any of the benefit of that.  Where it’s specifically just in one block, Kylna Court is an example, that’s the only one at the moment that pays any service charge for a sprinkler system maintenance and upkeep.  They are receiving the benefit of that, whereas other tenants in other blocks would have to cover the extra amount to cover the cost.

 

Cllr Freedman said he had used that as an example, but he thinks it’s contentious to say that it’s a benefit, so I’d be glad to get the list.  The question is who has decided the list and has it been held up to scrutiny, probably tenants and leaseholders would be a good place to see that.  Cllr Freedman understands it’s a cost but we’ve also seen from previous comments on service charges that the money that we raise on service charges is not reserved for use on these things and therefore right at the moment you are producing a surplus.  Cllr Freedman is not arguing about the principle of service charges, but there is some subjectivity on what a tenant is going to consider a service charge, especially given what the private sector would regard a service charge.  L Warden advised that the items need to be serviced is reproduced from the service cost for residential premises via statute and case law via the former Institute of Rent Officers Educational Trust 1994, that’s the best guidance that’s been produced, there’s not that much guidance on service charges for tenants, there is a huge list of items, we’ve made a decision not to apply all of those.  We are concerned about making sure that things are affordable for our tenants, that’s a priority for us.  In relation to recovering the costs we do aim, when we set our charges each year, we look at the cost to us for that exact service and that’s the amount that is apportioned between the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 87.