Agenda and minutes

Cabinet Housing Panel
Wednesday 15th January 2020 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, The Campus, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL8 6AE

Contact: Sharon Keenlyside 

Items
No. Item

19.

SUBSTITUTIONS

To note any substitution of Panel Members in accordance with Council Procedure Rules.

Minutes:

The following substitutions of Committee Members had been made in accordance with Council Procedure Rules:

 

CouncillorL.Musk for Councillor M.Cook

CouncillorP.Hebden for Councillor R.Lass

CouncillorF.Marsh for Councillor. H.Quenet

20.

APOLOGIES

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors M.Cook, R.Lass and H.Quenet.

21.

MINUTES

To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 13 August 2019 (previously circulated).

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 13 August were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

22.

ACTIONS UPDATE

There are no action updates to report from the last meeting.

Minutes:

The status of actions agreed at the Panel meeting on 13 August 2019 in the report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) was noted.

 

23.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

To note declarations of Members’ disclosable pecuniary interests, non-disclosable pecuniary interests and non-pecuniary interests in respect of items on this Agenda.

Minutes:

CouncillorF.Marsh declared a pecuniary interest by virtue of being a leaseholder and owner of a rented property in the Knightsfield area of Welwyn Garden City.

24.

HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT (HRA) BUSINESS PLAN pdf icon PDF 139 KB

Report of the Corporate Director (Housing and Communities) on the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan for consideration by the Panel.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Report of the Corporate Director (Housing and Communities) on the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan which set out the Council’s strategic plan for managing and maintaining the Council’s housing stock.

 

The HRA Business Plan detailed the Council’s short to medium term plans and priorities for its asset management and housing management services and provided a thirty year forecast on stock investment requirements and financial planning.

 

The report was presented to Cabinet on 6 January and any changes recommended by Cabinet Housing Panel would be presented to Special Cabinet on 21 January before final recommendations were made to Full Council for adoption.

 

Members enquired as to whether there was any flexibility in the timeframes as set out in the table of expenditure requirements on pages 36 and 37 of the HRA Business Plan. Officers explained that stock items had an anticipated lifespan and this was used for base financial planning. If an item needed earlier attention, an inspection would be done and any replacement or repair brought forward.

 

Members asked about energy efficiency measures after the climate emergency declared by Councillors in the summer of 2019. Officers said that a steering group was considering how to improve energy efficiency of the Councils housing stock and future housing stock. This would be looked at on an annual basis. The revisit of the decent homes standard may make energy efficiency a statutory requirement.

 

Members enquired about the increased demand for interim accommodation and how the private rented sector would be used to meet demand.

Officers explained that the Council would be looking at a mixture of options which included considering the private sector. Over the next 5 years, the Council would potentially be delivering 500 properties and would continue to deliver affordable housing. Social rented housing was an important part of that. The new housing company, Now Housing, was to be launched in the next financial year.    

 

            RESOLVED:

 

            That the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan be noted.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

25.

PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR HOUSING PERIOD QUARTER TWO - 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 129 KB

Report of the Corporate Director (Housing and Communities) providing a summary of the strategic key performance indicators (KPIs), and comments about performance by exception for Quarter Two 2019/20.  The KPIs are monitored monthly by Heads of Service.

 

Minutes:

Report of the Corporate Director (Housing and Communities) provided a summary of the strategic key performance indicators (KPIs) and comments about performance by exception for Quarter Two of 2019/20. The KPIs were monitored monthly by Heads of Service.

 

BPI 29 – It was noted that the post of Temporary Accommodation Manager had been filled. Having a complete team and a key manager in post would make a difference in reducing temporary accommodation use to desirable levels.

 

BPI 30 – The team prioritized areas most at risk which was why the main focus was on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). The Council ran seminars for Housing Association partners and regularly communicated with them regarding regulations applicable to them. If a Housing Association did not meet standards the Council would take action against them if necessary.

 

BPI 33 – It was noted that the response rate of 20% for surveys sent out in Quarter 2 was low. This was partly due to the new GDPR laws which required the Council to ask tenants if they would agree to be contacted after the survey which had resulted in a large number of tenants not responding.

 

BPI 35 – It was noted that the number of Universal Credit cases would continue to increase due to the transition from benefits to Universal Credit. Council tenant arrears showed a big reduction in Quarter 2 which showed that mechanisms, put in place to support the transition, was working well.

 

BPI 36 – It was noted that the eviction of Council tenants was a last resort and the teams worked closely with the Housing Officer and Homeless Prevention Officers to provide support to tenants at risk of eviction. The process of trying to engage with tenants in arrears started early on with phone calls and letters. If a tenant was evicted and the Council had a duty of care to them, they would be assessed as per the usual application process.

Members asked how many court applications and orders resulted in a possession order. The Head of Housing Operations would report back with the figures.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

            That the performance report be noted.

 

26.

UPDATE ON NOW HOUSING LIMITED

Presentation from the Corporate Director (Housing and Communities) providing an update on the Council-owned housing company, Now Housing Limited.

 

Minutes:

Presentation from the Corporate Director (Housing and Communities) providing an update on the Council-owned housing company, Now Housing Limited (Ltd).

 

The overarching objective of Now Housing Ltd was to provide good quality, genuinely affordable housing to local residents who had lower priority on the Housing Needs register or who were not eligible for social rented housing but who were not able to afford to buy or rent in the private sector. Now Housing Ltd would complement the Council’s provision of social rented homes which it delivered through its Housing Revenue Account. The company would support the growing local demand for a mix of housing tenures by providing intermediate, low cost home ownership or open market homes and letting sub-market and market rented homes.

 

The business plan for Now Housing Ltd had been developed following legal advice from Trowers and Hamlin and financial advice from Savills.

The company would be financially robust, aiming to generate a small profit to be used for the purpose of providing more affordable housing and deliver financial returns to the shareholder.

 

The Council recently commissioned a report by Savills to identify affordability and demand issues in Welwyn Hatfield. Savills concluded that the greatest opportunity would be for the company to provide one and two bedroom homes in Welwyn Garden City and one bedroom homes in Hatfield.

 

The Council would be the Shareholder with Cabinet acting on behalf of the Council. The Shareholder Group (Chief Executive, S.151 Officer, Monitoring Officer and Director of Public Protection, Planning and Governance) would act on behalf of the Shareholder. The Housing Company Board (Director of Housing and Communities, Heads of Service within Housing Team, Independent Member and Financial Support) was accountable to the Shareholder, must comply with the Shareholder Agreement and achieve the business plan objectives.

 

The business plan target for additional homes was 372 homes delivered over five years. The affordable housing activities of the company would be 100% loan financed through on-lending by the Council. The Council will make a profit on the loan as it would be paid back with interest. Cabinet had agreed £77m of finance.

 

Now Housing Ltd would start trading in spring 2020 with their first intermediate rented homes at local housing allowance with the tenants drawn from the housing needs register where possible. There would be a formal public launch at the end of May.

 

The company was working with partners to develop a brand which could be launched as a national exemplar. Members commented on the need for licensing and control of the brand to avoid it being used for something that was not approved of.

 

Members discussed the possibility of the Housing Company buying the Wheat Quarter.

Officers explained that a development of that scale would need a large amount of resources and the company would need to make a lot of changes to deliver something of that scale. The company would be commissioning internal services at the moment. It could be something to consider and would be discussed at their next  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.

27.

HOUSING MAINTENANCE RE-PROCUREMENT

Presentation from the Head of Property Services (Housing) on the re-procurement of the housing maintenance contract.

Minutes:

Presentation from the Head of Property Services (Housing) on the re-procurement of the housing maintenance contract.

 

Mears had held the Council’s current housing maintenance contract since 2007 and the contract was due to end in 2022. The re-procurement process had already started due to the size of the contract. Housing maintenance dealt with approximately 24,000 responsive repairs, approximately 500 voids and 20% stock condition surveys per annum.

 

There had been many changes in the last 15 years including changes in legislation. Many different contract and pricing models had been considered. Features of the new contract included price per property on responsive repairs, price per void and open book/target price on planned works. There would be a co-location and underpinning the contract would be a customer first approach.

 

The procurement route was very involved and detailed and was a three stage process. There had been 146 expressions of interest which would be narrowed down to three. The Council would then enter in to dialogue with them. The Council had bought in technical support from Faithorn Farrell and Timms and legal advice from Anthony Collins. The Procurement Board was due to meet in February and Officers would like to thank all Members involved for their ongoing support.

 

The Procurement timetable was as follows:

 

·         Return of applications

24 January 2020

·         Detailed tenders

March – October 2020

·         Final tenders

November 2020 – May 2021

·         Award

August 2021

·         Standstill and fine tuning

September – December 2021

·         Mobilisation

January – September 2022

·         Contract start

5 October 2022

 

 

            RESOLVED:

 

That the presentation on the re-procurement of the housing maintenance contract be noted.

28.

WORK PROGRAMME 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 186 KB

The pro-forma which sets out the Panel’s work programme has been updated since the last meeting to enable forward planning of items to be considered to take place.

Minutes:

The pro-forma setting out the Panel’s work programme had been updated since the last meeting to enable the forward planning of items to be considered.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the updated work programme for the Panel be noted.