Venue: Committee Room 3, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex RM17 6SL
Contact: Kenna Victoria Healey, Senior Democratic Services Officer Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk
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.
The Assistant Director of Housing presented the report, and in doing so, explained that Local Authorities were involved in a wide range of services and the ability to charge for some of these services had always been a key funding source to local Councils.
Members were informed the report specifically set out the charges in relation to services within the remit of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The charges dealt with were for the General Fund by the Housing Service; with charges due to take effect from the 1 April 2020 unless otherwise stated.
The Chair of the Committee queried that within the recommendation it mentioned that some fees were no longer applicable, she asked why these fees had not been included within the report. The Housing Enforcement Manager explained that the fees in question were now considered under traded services and would be presented in another report to a different committee.
Councillor Worrall, Chair of the Committee, further enquired as to why the Council was requiring landlords to pay a penalty charge for failing to comply with legislation in relation to installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms; when the Council was not following the legislation its own properties. The Housing Enforcement Manager, explained that the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms was required by law in the private rented sector. The Assistant Director of Housing stated that she would ask Officers to investigate the claims stated by the Chair of the Committee.
Councillor Redsell seconded the comments stating that clarification for Members would be useful.
Councillor Muldowney questioned as to whether the increase in Housing fees and charges was to be 2.7% or 3.0% as mentioned within the report. The Strategic Resources Accountant confirmed the increase was to be 2.7%.
That Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee note the revised fees, including those no longer applicable, and that Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee comment on the proposals currently being considered within the remit of this committee.
The Assistant Director introduced the report to the Committee advising it set out the base budget position for 2020/2021 following the review and update of the 30 year Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Business Plan.
She continued to inform Members the report recommended an increase in rents and services charges for next year, and following a rent reduction over the past 4 years of 1% per year, this had lead the Council to have less than £18million to spend on its properties. It had also lead to on average tenants paying £10 less in rent on average, should the rents had been increased per 1% over the last 4 years.
Members heard the Council should have been spending a minimum of £15million a year on the condition of its stock according to the stock condition survey, however, since the rent reduction had been brought in, an average of around £10milllion had been spent on Council properties.
The Assistant Director of Housing explained a consultation into the rent and service charges had been carried out with residents; who expressed they were unhappy with not having communal decoration and general upkeep within properties. Therefore the Council had included £600 thousand from next year to carry out a communal decorating programme including door entry.
The Strategic Resources Accountant commented that there was a lot of information within the tables attached to the report should Members want any additional clarification he was happy to answer any in-depth questions.
Councillor Worrall, Chair of the Committee enquired as to why within the report there was not a section on the reserves within the HRA as this was normally mentioned within past reports and how much the Council had in the HRA reserves; in addition how much was in the General Fund reserves for the Housing Department. The Strategic Resources Accountant explained that although the reserves were not within the current report it would be in the February Budget Setting Report. He continued to explain the way the reports were structured over the long term 5 year capital program, was trying to capital the expenditure from the use of reserves.
Members then queried the consultation mentioned within the report, with Councillor Muldowney raising concerns with how the consultation was carried out and remarking local Councillors had not been included. The Assistant Director of Housing explained that resident meetings were held across the borough, where there was a presentation and questions answered for residents who attended. She further commented, at the meeting there were no concerns raised by residents as to the increase in charges.
Councillors Muldowney and Worrall remarked as to the online consultation offered to residents. Councillor Worrall stated that when she looked for the online consultation, she couldn’t find it. Officers explained that at the time when Councillor Worrall had checked on the Council’s website for the consultation, it had finished.
It was further commented by the Chair of the Committee, that she didn’t feel the consultation carried out was completed well. She stated that she ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
The Housing Strategy and Quality Manager addressed Members explaining there was a statutory duty on every Local Authority to have a Homelessness Prevention and Rough Sleeping Strategy which set out the local authority’s plans for the prevention of homelessness and for securing that sufficient accommodation and support is, or would be, available for people who become homeless or who were at risk of becoming so.
He continued to explain the local authority must ensure that all organisations whose work could help to prevent homelessness and, or meet the needs of homeless people were involved in the strategy; with the current homelessness strategy being adopted in Thurrock in 2015.
Members were notified an updated Homelessness Prevention and Rough Sleeping Strategy had been developed which took into account current homelessness in the borough, the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, the impact of recent welfare reforms, as well as new opportunities for preventing homelessness.
The Housing Strategy and Quality Manger raised the key themes within the strategy:
Members were assured that the Committee would receive updates on the working of the strategy and Officers would continue to ensure that the Committee was involved in scrutiny of the delivery of the action plan.
Councillor Redsell commented that due to Data Protection the British Legion were not at liberty to disclose the whereabouts of a veteran and in some cases, Veterans didn’t want help from the Council and it was for the Council to respect that decision.
She further commented that the Veteran’s Charter was due to be updated and welcomed a piece of work on this.
The Housing Strategy and Quality Manger informed Members that there was information for veterans on the Councils website and Officers were working with partners to improve the information offered.
Councillor Worrall, Chair of the Committee enquired as to when it was likely for the Housing Prevention Board to be in place. The Assistant Director of Housing explained that the Board, was not yet in existence as the strategy was required to be agreed by Cabinet. She remarked that she hoped the first meeting would take place by March 2020.
Councillor Muldowney thanked Officers for the report and commented that she welcomed the strategy. She further enquired as to whether Officers were confidence they would half the number of people sleeping rough in the Borough; as in line with the Governments new policy. The Assistant Director of Housing ... view the full minutes text for item 25.
The Committee discussed the work programme for the last meeting of the municipal year. Members agreed the amendments to the Work Programme.
1. That the following reports be included on the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme 2020/2021:
• Garages Project update
• Homelessness Prevention and Rough Sleeping Strategy – Action Plan
2. That the Temporary Accommodation Contract report be moved to the new municipal year.