Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL. View directions
Contact: Kenna-Victoria Martin, Senior Democratic Services Officer Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 21 March 2017.
The Minutes of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, held on 21 March 2017, were approved as a correct record.
To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.
There were no items of urgent business. The Chair informed Members that he had spoken with the Leader, who had asked if the relevant Portfolio Holder could be invited to future meeting.
Declaration of Interests
Councillor Piccolo declared a non-pecuniary interest in that he was a Member of the Planning Committee.
The Corporate Director of Environment and Place addressed the committee, in doing so he explained the report outlined the activity completed by Gloriana over the last 12 months.
He continued to explain Gloriana had established a series of controls put in place to govern the development and delivery of projects. This was known as the Governance Gateway and set the parameters within which Gloriana would gain approvals from Thurrock Council in respect of scheme selection, property transfers and finance.
Members were informed the first development at St Chad’s, Tilbury was progressing well and was nearing completion, with 20% of the development being made available for affordable housing. The Committee were notified of the pipeline of schemes with the next proposed scheme - Belmont Road in Grays, which had been submitted to the planning department and was awaiting a decision.
Councillor Pothecary thanked the Corporate Director of Environment and Place for the report. She sought clarity on the expected role of Gloriana and commented on the percentages of the amount of units available for affordable housing offered to local residents. It was explained Gloriana’s principle aim was to develop new market housing within the Borough and to provide quality housing to meet housing needs and improve the lives of Thurrock residents.
The Corporate Director of Environment and Place notified the Committee there was the opportunity for affordable housing would come through the Section 106 which also provided funds for local environment and education priorities. He continued by confirming all future schemes would similarly be presented to the Planning Committee.
During discussions Members were advised the St Chads site had been contaminated with asbestos and so had been an expensive site to develop with no interest from private developers notwithstanding this the project had been delivered within budget.
Councillor Redsell enquired as to the cost of the service charges on the new development. Officers advised the cost would be included in the rent of the properties.
Councillor Allen commented the residents of Tilbury were disappointed as they were advised the properties would be offered to local people. He further stated that the percentage of affordable housing should have been greater. The Corporate Director of Environment and Place remarked that Gloriana was still a new company and perhaps they could have promoted the development differently at the outset. The amount of affordable housing was agreed by Planning Committee on the basis of viability assessments.
Councillor Piccolo sought additional information on the development of planning permission as mentioned at 2.2 and 2.3 of the report. He also mentioned that the Gloriana development was different to the development at the Topps Club.
It was confirmed that the two developments were different in that the Topps Club was a scheme funded by the Housing Revenue Account (HRA). The Corporate Director of Environment and Place advised the Committee there was funding available through the recently announced Housing Infrastructure Fund to allow ambitious developments, of which the Council were preparing their bid. These would not be through ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
The Assistant Director of Housing introduced the report to Members advising them following the tragic events at the Grenfell Tower block in Kensington triggered an urgent review of fire safety arrangements in Thurrock’s tower blocks, including:
• The fire safety regime in place for the councils comparable stock and
• The actions taken by the Council since the incident to provide reassurance to residents, co-operate with the government’s investigation into the causes of the Grenfell fire, and achieve a `double assurance’ of the safety of our tower block accommodation.
It was stated that the Essex Fire service played a key role at the tenant meetings and further discussed that no tower block in the borough had been called in by the government for testing. Officers notified Members that the council would be carrying out their own cladding testing, which was due to run from August to October.
Officers informed the Committee on nine of the blocks the gas risings were to be removed by National Grid at the end of October, which would also consist of follow up checks. Members were further informed Liberty Gas had been commissioned to carry out gas checks in all the required blocks.
During discussions officers reported they were awaiting guidance from Government in relation to fire sprinklers, Members were advised to install new sprinkler systems of this nature per tower block in Thurrock would cost between £80 thousand to £150 thousand.
The Committee were further notified Officers were to carry out a Stock Condition Survey, along with a stock assessment.
Members thanked officers for the report and congratulated them on how quickly they were in contact with residents to offer reassurance and advice.
Councillor Pothecary queried as to whether the compartmentation process was still in place. Officers confirmed fire risk assessments, repairs and daily or weekly checks were being completed. Alongside this fire alarms were check by the Fire Authority, following which nothing was noted.
The Assistant Director of Housing further commented that front doors on flats within the blocks were to be fire doors. Such doors in an emergency when shut would stop smoke and fire for up to 30 minutes, allowing the fire service to handle the fire.
It was sought as to whether tower block without cladding and schools in the borough would also be checked. Officers informed Members residential homes had been checked, it was further explained NHS England were keen to offer reassurance to residents.
Members commented on the presentation given by the Fire Authority at the Cleaner, Greener and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee. It was further commented as to whether any defects identified had been repaired and if the fire risks assessment had been updated. The Assistant Director of Housing explained that a meeting with Mears had taken place and any potential fire safety defect had been made a priority. It was confirmed new fire assessments were to be held and these would be audited by the Fire Service.
The Chair of the Committee asked if funding ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Housing Service Review
This item will be a presentation.
The Assistant Director of Housing presented the item to the committee and in doing so the following was discussed:
• Last year a three year programme was started to deep clean communal areas of many blocks. This year it aimed to expand further and start a programme of repainting communal areas, where a need is identified;
• In April the East caretaking team received 100% satisfaction from its residents, which means that the service was rated good or excellent by every resident who took part in the survey;
• In relation to Tenancy management 3379 Audits had been completed since 2015, 17 Properties recovered by Fraud and 4 Right To Buys stopped;
• The rents collection team met their target of 99%, 54% of this was a cash collected which is up by 2% from 2015;
• The councils rent arrears for 2016-2017 was the lowest recorded figure in 10 years and of those arrears 67% are below £250. It was further pointed out that 70% of tenants had a clear rent account or were in credit;
• Within the last 12 months the repairs service had undertaken over 34,000 repairs to the councils housing stock and in delivering these repairs had managed to achieve the highest customer satisfaction of 93%, this had been achieved through implementation of new processes of which has included repairs process and new call scripts, however one of the biggest factors was the team had managed to achieve first time fixes to 95% of these repairs;
• Mears void turnaround time was now under 10 days;
• Members were advised complaints were down by 22%, while compliments had risen up by 58%;
• Safeguarding team were working jointly assessing and meeting the needs of applicants facing Domestic abuse and;
• There were currently 8202 residents on the Housing Register
Members were informed the ASB / Enforcement Team had the first ever closure Order to evict a tenant and the council assisted Essex Police prosecute a resident to a 7 year custodial sentence for GBH by providing A CCTV package and witness statement.
Officers further notified the Committee of the work to date relating to the Housing Service review. Phase 1 of the review included:
· Looking at how services were running
· Identifying quick wins
· Investigating longer term improvements and efficiencies
The Chair of the Committee commented that prior to the Assistant Director of Housing joining the Local Authority, the customer service performance was poor. Councillor Spillman asked if he was happy with the current performance.
The Assistant Director of Housing, replied he was happy with the improvement made, however there was more to do such as working with residents and changing mind sets. He explained that client care letters had been sent explaining what the council can do and what they could do to help themselves. He stated that dialogue with residents was an important first step.
The Chair of the Committee noted that there was a reference to the importance of homeless prevention in the ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Members discussed the work programme for the current municipal year.
Members agreed the following items be included on the Work Programme:
• Keep Mote
• KPI Performance Quarter 1 – October 2017