Agenda and minutes

Cabinet Housing Panel - Wednesday 31st January 2024 7.30 pm

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

Contact: Democratic Services 


No. Item



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

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Apologies for absence were received from Cllr S Goldwater.




To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 30 October 2023 (previously circulated).

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The minutes of the meeting held on 30 October 2023 were approved as a correct record.




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There were no items of urgent business.




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

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Cllr Thomson declared a non-pecuniary interest by virtue of being a Member of Hertfordshire County Council.




Up to thirty minutes will be made available for questions from members of the public on issues relating to the work of the Committee and to receive any petitions.

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There were no public questions or petitions.




To receive a report of the Service Director (Resident And Neighbourhood).

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Members were shown a presentation which is attached to these minutes.


Officers explained this was a new strategy which Cabinet would be asked to approve which set out how the Council would engage with residents, tenants and leaseholders in Council homes and how it wanted them to be involved in influencing, shaping and scrutinising its services, policies and performance. Resident involvement was a key theme in the standards set by the social housing regulator; while this was currently under review, it was likely to be replaced by similar standards in a new consumer standard.


The strategy set out the Council’s vision for resident engagement as well as its commitment towards that in order to develop more partnership working and improved communications. There was already an effective working relationship with the Residents Panel and the Council wanted to increase wider participation so residents could better shape services. There was also a role for residents to provide feedback on performance, and a key theme was about keeping them updated about housing issues they were raising.


Around a year ago, residents had been surveyed about their priorities which included repairs, estate management and grounds maintenance, better communication about planned maintenance and repairs, and more information about events being held for residents in Council homes. The Residents Panel had provided helpful feedback which was included in the draft strategy; this included an annual review rather than one every three years. There was a key role for the Panel which the strategy would make clearer. The Panel had scrutinised estate management last year with clear feedback that was similar to what tenants had said when surveyed; these two pieces of feedback would be taken on board before the draft strategy (including making some of the wording clearer) was finalised.


Members raised the following points:

-        It was asked how residents would provide feedback. Officers said the new Tenant Satisfaction Measures survey we are now required to run annually would go out to a random sample of 3,000 tenants who would be asked to provide details of issues of concern and their levels of satisfaction. If approved, the strategy would be promoted via the Residents Panel, on the Council’s website and the Community Edit newsletter amongst others.

-        A member felt that although the strategy sought to improve communication, the approach taken seemed one-way (residents feeding back to the Council) whereas it could be a vehicle for better two-way communication including, for example, engaging with issues that might cause residents concern such as net zero policies in order that they were more likely to embrace them. Officers said two-way communication would be made clearer in the strategy and with regard to net zero, there would be more community days taking place. 

-        Responding to a query about community days, officers said there had been 4 in the last year. These had included waste cage events where arrangements were made to remove refuse and bulky waste; fire brigade, police and Morgan Sindall representatives had been in attendance  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36.



To receive a report of the Service Director (Resident and Neighbourhood).

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Members were shown a presentation which is attached to these minutes. The strategy and policy were revisions of the existing version and the changes were track changed in the agenda pack. The strategy set out the Council’s commitment to providing high quality housing, ensuring thriving neighbourhoods and sustainable communities, and the approach of the Council in this area towards tenancies as well as the expected approaches of social housing providers. Under the Localism Act, the Council was required to consult with registered providers, social landlords and others who were required by law to have regard to the Council’s tenancy strategy in terms of how they set their tenancies and their terms and conditions. If CHP was to unanimously agree the draft strategy and policy and the Executive Member for Housing approved the start of a consultation, it was intended that there would be a four week public consultation; there would also be an informal consultation with private landlords and agents through the accreditation scheme although this was not required by law.


The tenancy strategy covered the types of tenancies that were available. It was the Councils aim to provide secure lifetime tenancies (one of the four key objectives of the strategy) and although there were occasions when this was not possible eg when it needed to make temporary arrangements, fixed term tenancies were no longer offered. The Council wanted to ensure tenants understood their responsibilities and how to sustain their tenancies; additionally, if their tenancy was to end, they should be signposted towards services if they were potentially homeless.


The policy was more focused on the Council and set out arrangements for tenancy management including how tenancy sustainment was supported, tackling tenancy fraud and how the Council managed discretionary succession rights.


Members commented as follows:

-        There was a query about discretionary succession rights; a member reflected that it was distressing when a parent died which would be compounded by the potential loss of one’s home and asked how such residents would be supported. Officers responded that each case would be looked at individually with regard to their personal circumstances and cases would be looked at by the Exceptional Circumstances panel if necessary. There were legal requirements for succession and a property could only be succeeded once but the circumstances of the living resident would be taken into account.

-        A member reflected on the importance of the strategy and policy and asked whether they would come back to CHP for review. Officers explained there would be a consultation over the next four weeks and would probably go to Cabinet for approval; if that was the case, an update would be provided to CHP.

-        A member commented positively on the section about demoted tenancies and asked if it was possible for housing associations to follow the Council’s lead in not demoting tenancies. Officers acknowledged that while the strategy set out the Council’s expectations, there were limitations in what it could ask of other providers. However the Council tried  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.



To receive a report of the Chief Executive.

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The report set out the compliance position as at 12 January 2024 and officers noted that fire regulation assessment (FRAs) actions were not listed as a result of the Council conducting new FRAs. All actions had been completed last year with the exception of some fire doors which remained an ongoing programme. The majority of actions currently being picked up were in relation to compartmentation surveys and fire door surveys and the contractor was expected to complete this work in the next few months. Domestic electrical testing was still slightly non-compliant and there were some access issues in relation to this and domestic gas testing and officers advised there were still some delays in the court process in order to gain access.  


A member asked whether instances of non-access were repeat cases and asked how this was managed. Officers said a pattern was emerging which was not just about access to gas and electricity testing but also with repairs; appropriate information had been included in the tenants’ handbook which the Residents Panel was now reviewing and a new process was being written for cases of no-access.



CHP noted the content of the report.




To receive a report of the Executive Director (Place).

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The report provided a summary of performance across the Council’s housing services across Quarter 3 and officers advised voids were taking longer during the quarter than previously. This was in part due to higher lettable standards (the quality standards voids should meet once repaired and refurbished) meaning it was taking longer to achieve those standards; additionally, once a property became void, there was an opportunity to carry out more extensive repairs or works so the new tenant had a good quality home.   


The figures for damp and mould in the report were from Q3. Officers provided an update as follows: at 24 January 2024, there were 1,355 damp and mould cases, of which 1,117 had had a first inspection. There had been 628 damp and mould washes, 75 were left to be inspected and 103 were cancelled as they did not relate to damp and mould. Of the 1,117 cases that had had a first inspection, 466 needed further works. 786 cases had been completed. Asked whether there was a mould map showing hotspots within the borough, officers explained there was no particular hotspot.


A member noted the report referenced a low response in comparison to the number of surveys sent out in terms of customer satisfaction with planned works. Officers said they were looking at other avenues such as text messages and online surveys that could potentially increase the response rate.


A member observed that in respect of BPI 126, the commentary for Q3 looked similar to that of Q2 and asked whether the commentary could include the highest period of time that housing options applicants had to wait to be assigned an officer; he was concerned there was a move from a definitive measure of 14 days to an average wait time. Officers advised the average was provided for additional context rather than just providing a figure. The most common reason for a delay was down to the Council needing information about income or an assessment to be done which meant it had to request and then receive information from the resident in question; officers could look at what the longest cases were and include detail of that in subsequent reports. 


In respect of BPIs 133 and 134, a member asked whether actual figures could be shown rather than the number of cases per 1,000 Council properties. Officers replied that this would be shown as a percentage in the next year and the commentary would include the number of cases. 



CHP noted the content of the report.