The Corporate Director Adults
Housing and Health introduced the report and stated that this was a
progress report on a piece of work that had come before the
committee twelve months ago. He outlined the progress that had been
made, as detailed at point 2.3 of the report, and used the examples
of finding £200,000 in the HRA budget for urgent repairs;
undertaking an initial condition survey; liaising with the
Community Payback Team; reviewing tenancy agreements; and filing
up-to-date records and registers. He stated that due to the poor
condition of some garages, some may have to be demolished and
pulled down, but that the garages project team was meeting later on
in the week to discuss these types of issues. He discussed the fact
that a small amount of funding had been found in the HRA budget,
and once this had been agreed by Cabinet, urgent remedial works
could begin. He summarised by stating his team’s commitment
to improving the condition of garages in the borough.
Councillor Redsell opened the debate by commenting that many of the borough’s garages were reaching the end of their life, and it was important to find out who owned them. The Corporate Director replied that records had not been in a good enough state, and described how Thurrock were going to undertake a full record and audit to be able to identify the owners of garages. The Assistant Director Housing added that she would be leading the garages project team to ensure targets were met and it remained focussed on issues.
Councillor Pothecary stated that she was pleased to see that progress had been made, and added that when garages fell into disrepair it often led to an increase in anti-social behaviour, which caused concern for all councillors. She asked if the urgent, remedial work on the garages would always rely on a subsidy from the HRA, or if in future the maintenance of garages could be self-sustaining. The Corporate Director clarified that work on garages was a part of the HRA, which contained a small repair budget. He added that extra money had been found from within the HRA to fund the repair of garages, but this could not come from the capital receipts budget. He also commented that although the council received income from garages, there was a high void level and demand across the borough varied significantly.
The Housing Tenant Representative continued the debate and mentioned the fact that some garages were unsuitable for large cars. She then asked if applications for garages were renewed every year. The Assistant Director Housing responded that it was understood that people rarely used their garages for cars anymore, and used them as extra storage space instead. She commented that the council were going to review tenancy agreements with the legal team, as the change of use could affect issues such as insurance. She clarified that when a resident applied for a garage, they remain on the waiting list.
Councillor Redsell added that she felt the council should focus on finding out the ownership of garages, and upgrading them as many were now too small because they had been built in the 1970s. Councillor Liddiard mentioned that as last the review had been 2009, another review should take place to decide whether to repair or demolish garages. The Corporate Director highlighted the timescales of the project to the committee and stated that the recommendations may not be implemented very soon, as housekeeping work had to be undertaken before the project could begin, such as structural surveys and record collecting. Councillor Redsell added that she had received feedback from residents which stated the appearance of the garages was in a poor state and asked if the youth offending teams could paint the garage doors. She also asked if the table included in the report could be broken down to differentiate between privately owned garages and housing stock. The Corporate Director replied that another report on this subject would come back to committee at the end of the calendar year, but the project would be actioned before the report comes back to committee. The Assistant Director Housing clarified that the Community Payback Team could not start work on the garages until the summer months, due to the weather.
1. The Committee commented on the information in this report and the next steps described.