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APPOINTMENT OF CHAIRMAN AND VICE CHAIRMAN
To note that Councillors J.Boulton and M.Perkins were appointed Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee for the 2017/18 municipal year at the Cabinet meeting on 12 June 2017.
It was noted that the Cabinet had appointed Councillors J.Boulton and M.Perkins as Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Panel respectively for the 2017/18 Municipal Year.
To note any substitution of Committee Members in accordance with Council Procedure Rules 19 – 22.
The following substitution of a Panel Member had been made in accordance with Council Procedure Rules 19-22:
Councillor H.Bower for K.Holman.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor K.Holman and S.Smith, Independent Representative.
To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 19 April 2017 (previously circulated).
The Minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel, held on 19 April 2017, were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Report of the Executive Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) which lists the actions from previous meetings and their current status.
An updated version of the report of the Executive Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) had been circulated. The report identified actions agreed at the last meeting of the Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel and their current status.
That the status of actions identified at the meeting of the Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel on 19 April 2017 be noted.
FIRE SAFETY IN FLATS
Presentation from the Head of Property Services on fire safety in flats following the Grenfell Tower block fire.
Executive Director (Housing and Communities) reassured the Panel that, following devastating events at Grenfell Tower, the Council had implemented a number of initiatives to ensure that the residents of the two Council-owned tower blocks in the Borough, Queensway House and Goldings House, were as safe as possible.
The Head of Property Services (Housing) read the following statement.
The contractor who installed the cladding in 2012 has given an assurance that the materials and the system are not the same as that used in Grenfell Tower.
However, as an extra precaution the Council today took samples and they are currently being tested at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) - this is the organisation which is testing cladding for other local authorities and is approved by the government to do this. We have been advised by the BRE that we will have the results in the next couple of days.
We have published a statement on the Council's website, carried out a letter drop to all Queensway House residents this afternoon and circulated the statement to all Members.
Working with the Fire Service
Nick Long and Simone Russell attended a Local Resilience Forum (LRF) meeting this afternoon at Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue HQ - this was a county-wide meeting to look at fire safety issues.
Simone Russell and Peter Gray will also be meeting with Andrew Butler, Head of Protection (Fire Protection Team) to discuss how we can work with the Fire Service in managing fire risk. This will include other measures we can take to maximise fire safety in Queensway House, in light of the terrible tragedy which occurred at Grenfell Tower. This will include looking at options for installing a sprinkler system to all communal areas of Queensway.
We had received reassurance from the contractor who fitted the cladding at Queensway House that it is safe - however we want to be prepared for any eventuality. As such we are carrying out the following actions:
• Identifying a contractor to be on stand-by in the event that part or all of the cladding has to be removed. This includes the provision of scaffolding which will be required.
• Identifying suitable alternative short term accommodation for residents of Queensway House, should the need arise to decant them whilst works are being arranged/carried out. Seeking a contractor to deliver around the clock warden patrols within Queensway House, should the need arise.
Identifying vulnerable tenants in Queensway House
We are clarifying which residents would need special assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation and/or decanting, should the need arise. This includes residents with a disability/older people.
This block is owned by Paradigm Housing Association. We have received assurances from them about fire safety and will continue to liaise with them so that we can satisfy ourselves that they building is being well managed.”
Head of Community and Housing Strategy further stated that Paradigm confirmed they carried out regular Fire Risk Assessments, the most ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
PROPOSED SCOPE OF WORK FOR THE NEW CABINET HOUSING PANEL
Presentation by Executive Director (Housing and Communities) on the proposed scope of work for the new Cabinet Housing Panel.
The Panel received a presentation from the Executive Director (Housing and Communities) on the proposed scope of work for the new Cabinet Housing Panel. The Panel was asked to express their views on the areas of work.
Executive Director (Housing and Communities) introduced the areas of work as follows.
• Housing Revenue Account Business Plan – discussion and updates
• Discussing and updating key service developments
• Future initiatives for the Service, including housing development
• Performance monitoring – key performance indicators
• Tenant Scrutiny – updates, findings and recommending service improvements
• New strategy/policy and protocols – discussion and recommending approval
• Receiving updates on government policy changes, their impacts and our response
• Affordable Housing Programme – progress updates
Following a request, the Executive Director (Housing and Communities) assured Members that training would be provided on the Housing Revenue Account and that a separate section be included on the housing provision for vulnerable groups and that this group be highlighted.
That the proposed scope of work as set out below be agreed.
a. Housing Revenue Account Business Plan – discussion and updates
b. Discussing and updating key service developments
c. Future initiatives for the Service, including housing development
d. Performance monitoring – key performance indicators
e. Tenant Scrutiny – updates, findings and recommending service improvements
f. New strategy/policy and protocols – discussion and recommending approval
g. Receiving updates on government policy changes, their impacts and our response
h. Affordable Housing Programme – progress updates
i. Housing provision for vulnerable group.
OVERVIEW OF THE HOUSING SERVICE
Presentation by the Heads of Housing Services providing an overview of the Housing Service.
Presentations were received from the Executive Director (Housing and Communities) and the Heads of Housing Services which provided an overview of the Housing Service at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.
Responding to questions the following answers were given:-
Head of Housing Operations
There had been a total of 14 evictions during the previous year, which were not all as a result of rent arrears. A very low number of eviction were due to Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) as there were many enforcement tools which were used before the Council went down this route, which was seen as a last resort. It was very difficult to evict for ASB because of the amount of evidence required by Judges and it was often difficult where witnesses did not want to give evidence. Officer experienced difficulty managing the expectations of neighbours or residents around the Borough who were experiencing ASB.
Following the reintegration of the Housing Trust, the Council would continue to promote events in the community. However a review of the current services and programmes would be undertaken to ascertain which would continue and/or be improved and which activities will be carried out in conjunction with the Community and Housing Strategy Team which is in the same directorate. Services, such as those provided at the Jimmy MacDonald in Hatfield and others in the community, would be enhanced across the Borough to provide better life chances for residents.
Head of Property Services (Housing)
• Comparisons were made against the services provided to private homes in respect of time, cost and efficiency.
• Economies of scale resulted in slightly reduced costs.
• Gas servicing reached 100% in past few months (a legislative requirement), with strategies in place to identify those residents who repeatedly did not allow access to their properties to allow for servicing and maintenance.
• There were indicative timescales for the life cycle for the replacement of materials and works for the sector which were used for guidance only as they did not have to be adhered to legally. Should an item, such as window frames when inspected they would not necessarily be replaced. Detailed records were kept of all replacements.
That the presentations received from the on the Executive Director (Housing and Communities) and the Heads of Housing Services be noted.
Report of the Executive Director (Housing and Communities) setting out the introduction of new statutory enforcement powers for the Council under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
Report of the Executive Director (Housing and Communities) setting out the introduction of new statutory enforcement powers for the Council under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 together with the current enforcement powers.
In response to questions from Members, Officers confirmed that the Building Research Establishment commissioned to carry out a stock survey had estimated that there were 2,341 Houses in Multiple Occupation in the Welwyn Hatfield area. Currently only those which were over three stories with five or more living individually required a licence. This may change depend if Government changes legislation for mandatory licencing for two storey with five or more people.
(1) That the Committee note the content of the report.
(2) That a further report would be brought back later in the year which would set out the proposals for a policy which would include the use of the new powers and the mechanism for calculating the appropriate level of civil penalty where applicable.
Report of the Executive Director (Housing And Communities) providing an update on the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 which will expand the duties of Councils to prevent homelessness for all homeless households.
Report of the Executive Director (Housing And Communities) provided an update on the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 which would expand the duties of Councils to prevent homelessness for all homeless households.
There a many new measures in this new legislation and this will have a resource implication for the team. However Members were reassured that the Council was already proactive in preventing homelessness and this goes some way in preparing for the new legislation.
That the content of the report be noted.
Report of the Executive Director (Housing and Communities) related to the funding the Government had allocated to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. The new grant gives Councils more control and flexibility over homelessness budgets at the local level, taking into account local circumstances. It forms part of the Government’s approach to tackling homelessness, helping both those at risk of homelessness and those experiencing a crisis.
The report set out the detailed work which had been carried out on a series of proposed work streams/projects identified as a priority for funding from this newly available sum.
Officers, in response to questions from Members advised that:-
• The funding would be utilised by initiating partner mobilisation rather than investing in the internal establishment – this would make it easier to withdraw in the event that the funding ceases after two years. There was the intention that the initiatives could potentially be continued by partners even if funding ended in two years’ time. In order to do this there would need to be effective measures in place to assess the outcomes achieved.
• There would be a planned approach as to how the extended duty under the Homelessness Reduction Act would be coordinated and implemented, which included holding regular meetings with the relevant organisations on a county wide basis to identify the best way forward.
(1) That the content of the report be noted.
(2) That the proposals set out in the report be recommended to Cabinet for approval.
(The Chairman accepted this report as an urgent late item on the grounds that it needed to be referred to the Cabinet at its next meeting).