Agenda and minutes

Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 20th February, 2018 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex RM17 6SL

Contact: Wendy Le, Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item




Apologies were received from:


·         Corporate Director of Adults, Housing and Health, Roger Harris, who was attending a meeting related to Health and Wellbeing;

·         Councillor Terry Piccolo;

·         Councillor Gerard Rice; and

·         Councillor Oliver Gerrish, who had been Councillor Rice’s substitute.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 123 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 19 December 2017.



The minutes of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 19 December 2017 were approved as a correct record.


Items of Urgent Business

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.


Declaration of Interests


There were no declarations of interest.


Review of Garages pdf icon PDF 145 KB


Presented by the Assistant Director of Housing (ADH), John Knight, the report outlined the Council’s current garage stock. Out of the 2505 garages, 637 were void although 85 of this was now fit to let. Appearance and usage of the garages needed to be addressed and funding was needed to fix the most derelict garages.


There was a potential proposal to allocate funds to fix garages in the next financial year. The garages needed improvement to make them more acceptable to the public and encourage use of them. As there was a small sum of money currently available, the ADH invited the Committee to suggest the most derelict garages in need of immediate repair and decoration.


Councillor Redsell welcomed the report as it had been long awaited and stated that some garages just needed a coat of paint to improve its appearance. She questioned why Baily Garner had been used to gather the information provided and what the company did. The ADH explained that Baily Garner had been used to perform the Stock Condition Survey of the Council’s housing stock which had been presented at the last Committee meeting. Garages had been included the survey and the data had been extrapolated for maintenance and repair works.


As non-Council tenants were charged a higher rate than Council tenants for the use of garages, Councillor Redsell queried the reason for this. The ADH answered VAT was charged to non-Council tenants and social landlords would generally offer a lower price to Council tenants. Thurrock Council was a commercial council and would look to generate revenue where it was reasonable to do so. Council tenants were charged lower as they had a commitment to council properties and were stakeholders in the community.


Councillor Redsell was concerned on what was stored within garages and suggested letting garages to residents within the Borough and not outside of the Borough. She said there needed to be a way to check what was stored in garages. Understanding her concern, the ADH replied that some of the plots were no longer council owned as they had been sold. In the lease agreements, the service would need to notify the occupier of an intention to go into the garages if necessary. If reports of substances or concerns of contents inside were called in, the service would investigate. The service did not require occupiers to issue what contents were stored inside and could not make the assumption that people outside the Borough would use the garages any different to how someone within the Borough would. Referring back to charges of garage use, the ADH suggested the service could look into separate rates for a Thurrock resident, non-Thurrock resident and a Thurrock Council tenant.


Referring to the council’s housing stock, Councillor Allen commented that with the 10,000 stock of houses and 2,000 stock of garages, that would mean a quarter of the garages could only be supplied to households. Possibly less as 22% of the garages were not fit for purpose. Regarding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.


Repairs Policy pdf icon PDF 94 KB

Additional documents:


The report was introduced by the ADH which gave an update of the proposed changes to the Repairs Policy upon review. The overarching aim was to ensure the policy remained fit for purpose whilst addressing all the current statutory requirements. It should empower council tenants where possible through access to information and enable them to be involved in the maintenance of their homes.


This policy did not include leaseholders as a separate document would be drawn up for them. The policy had certain sections added in such as damp and mould which was a big issue and other sections were reworded for clarity. Referring to the Housing Repairs FAQs in appendix C, the ADH invited the Committee to provide feedback and suggestions on the clarity of the FAQs.


In reference to paragraph 2.12, Councillor Allen mentioned that many tenants took pride in taking on their own repairs. He questioned if it was fair for them to ask for permission to remove wallpaper as this sometimes resulted in damage to the plaster wall. The ADH explained decorative processes could result in damage to the property which would fall to the Council to repair and be charged back to the tenant. There was an expectation that council tenants should look after the property.


Councillor Allen continued by referring to a case which had blown windows and another that had a broken window that was not the fault of the tenant who needed a crime reference number in order for the Council to repair it without cost. This had been due to a window fail. He asked what tenants had to do in order for repairs to take place without the need of a crime reference number.


In response, the ADH explained that if the broken window had been faulty, there would need to be several reports from the same street to identify a faulty batch. A crime reference number was needed in order to prove the damage had not been done by the tenant. He listed certain criterias of repairs that was listed within the policy and said that the service would use the stock condition data to take a more planned programme towards repairs.


Echoing Councillor Allen’s comments, the Chair added that a blown double glazed window would lose its efficacy and would cause damp and mould to the property. Attempting to raise this as a responsive repair with the Council, tenants would be told the repair was not a responsive repair which was frustrating. Understanding the point made, the ADH answered that damp and mould was a responsive repair and potentially, the blown window would be part of the works to address this. If a blown window did not cause any damp and mould, it would still be secure and a tenant could still see out of it so would not be a responsive repair. The Chair went on to say that this was not always the case. He felt the new system should be more responsive and less rigid.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.


Homelessness Reduction Act Update pdf icon PDF 136 KB


The report was presented by the ADH which provided the Committee with an update on the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (HRA17). This followed on from the original report brought to the Committee in October 2017. Since then, the service had remodelled services and reconfigured teams, ready to meet the new Act requirements. Thurrock Council had received a total sum allocation of £242,544 from the new burdens funding which would be split over the three years. The first year’s allocation of £81,700 would be used to hire two new specialist officers and on a bespoke system titled ‘Jigsaw’.


The service had been visited by a representative from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government which had resulted in a positive visit. There would be a Homelessness Forum on 5th March in which Thurrock would share their preparations with partners. The aim was to be one of the best Boroughs to successfully implement the requirements of the HRA17.


Welcoming this update and the HRA17, the Chair felt it was the little things that made a big difference. He went on to say the demand did not seem to be so high considering the ratio of the number of people coming into the service per officer. The ADH agreed with this comment.


Referring to paragraph 3.2, Councillor Pothecary sought clarification that the current statutory notice period of 28 days would be extended to 56 days. The ADH confirmed this was the case and would be in line with the Assured Shorthold Tenancy in the private sector. However, the service currently did not wait until the end of the notice; instead, they would allocate the case immediately to an Options Officer. Most boroughs, including Thurrock, were already carrying out best practices in general.


Councillor Pothecary welcomed this as it was a big issue. She felt paragraph 3.2 needed rewording for clarity regarding the 28 days and 56 days framework. She sought clarification on the wording of paragraph 3.5 which the ADH clarified it referred to families with children and not the children themselves that were made intentionally homeless. It was the parents that were the subject of intention for homelessness and the unfortunate impact was on the children. He went on to state the paragraph focused on the strengthened partnership between housing and children’s services. This was a part of the ethos of the new Act which highlighted and encouraged successful partnerships.


Referring to the funding, Councillor Pothecary expressed concern over the funding of £81,700 in the first year which would already be used up by the two specialist officers. Whilst this placed new duties on the Council which she felt was right, she was concerned on the lack of resources, such as available properties and discretionary payments, the Council had to fulfil these duties. The ADH agreed the new legislation could not change anything and did not create new housing options. The funding allocated had been based on demand statistics and would be used up fairly quickly but there  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 60 KB


The Committee agreed to cancel the scheduled Housing Overview and Scrutiny meeting on the 24th April 2018 due to there being insufficient business during the pre-election period.


The Chair thanked the Committee for their support during his time as Chair.