Agenda and minutes
Venue: Glen Room - Council Offices, St. Peter's Hill, Grantham. NG31 6PZ. View directions
Contact: Anita Eckersley
Disclosure of interests
Members are asked to disclose any interests in matters for consideration at the meeting.
No interests were disclosed.
The action notes from the meeting held on 10 March 2016 were noted.
Updates from previous meeting
The Strategic Director, Environment and Property provided a brief update on the Allocations Policy. She explained that the process was at the early stage of consultation but once completed a document outlining the results would be brought back to the PDG for further consideration.
The PDG to consider the following questions submitted by Councillor Baxter:
Every year, thousands of
volunteers take tens of thousands of actions across South
Kesteven to provide services, run
events and improve our communities.
· What measures, financial and otherwise, is the Executive planning and doing in support of volunteers, their organisations and their events?
· Does the Council have any plans for increasing the level of support to volunteers?
One member of Communities PDG had put a question to the group asking it to consider what measures, financial or otherwise, were in place to support volunteers, their organisations and their events, and whether the Council had plans to increase the level of support and encouragement for these volunteers.
The Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer reported that the Council currently supported two voluntary sector umbrella organisations within the District (Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service (LCVS)) by core funding their functions for the purpose of providing support and advice to local grassroots community groups and to individuals. Assistance was provided to community groups that were looking to establish themselves based on identified need at local level. These groups were also assisted by LCVS in seeking funding for the development and day-to-day running of their operation and/or for one-off projects or events. Individuals could benefit from support from CAB and its team of volunteers at all times but particularly in times of crisis: financial stress, repossession, homeless etc
SKDC had Service Level Agreements with both LCVS and CAB. One of the main functions carried out by LCVS was to help lever funding on behalf of grassroots voluntary and community groups, supporting these groups through the funding process. During 2015/16 LCVS had assisted groups with the District to secure £190,000 of external funding for their work.
The Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer informed the PDG that in 2014/15 a Community Fund of £300,000 had been created which enabled the funding of grants to groups or individuals wanting to provide support to the community. She reported that £125,000 of the fund had already been allocated but once the whole fund was allotted no further funding would be available. She noted that consideration had been given by the Panel in respect of the worthiness and cost effectiveness of the size of grants.
In response to questions, the Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer advised that the Panel who considered the applications had met three times to consider a number of applications. The Panel was made up from the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the PDGs. Applications received had to fit certain criteria before going forward for consideration. The Council also provided other support such as signposting, statistical information, street cleaning and waste collection after festivals / events, and access to networking. Both groups provided the Council with quarterly reports and met regularly with the Council to report on outcomes and progress.
The LCVS Office for South Kesteven was located in the Council building in Grantham and was staffed during week days. The LCVS also ran outreach clinics in other areas within the district.
Report BMH 108 Housing Scheme for Buying back Ex Council properties.
The Business Manager, Housing, presented report number BMH 108 on the development of a Housing Scheme for buying back ex-council properties. The aim of the proposed scheme was to contribute to the Council’s housing priority which had been developed from the current HRA Business Plan, Housing Strategy and the Housing Asset Management Strategy.
The Right to Buy Scheme had been introduced in 1980 and was an opportunity for qualifying social tenants to buy their homes at a discount. It was reported that the discount gap for outside London had been increased to £75,000 by the Government in 2013 which in turn had accelerated sales. In South Kesteven, the maximum discount currently stood at £77,900 which was increased on the 1st April each year by the consumer price index.
Members were informed that the Council had sold 37 properties, during 2014/15 and 41 properties up to the end of March 2016. A number of enquiries from residents who wanted to sell their former owned council properties back to the Council had also been received.
The Business Manager, Housing noted that the proposed scheme would not only complement other council housing initiatives but would help bring into line the management of council owned properties, such as council owned blocks of flats, but could also mitigate the pressures on accommodation and homelessness. Implementation of this scheme would support the sustainability of the HRA by replenishing housing stock together with rental income lost by Right To Buys as well as ease pressures on areas designated for future regeneration. It was anticipated that the scheme would also mitigate pressures on the General Fund for temporary housing by increasing the supply of affordable housing. She noted that although the Council had bought back a couple of properties, the potential to repurchase properties had not actively been advertised. It was proposed that acquisitions would only be undertaken using specific criteria and could be facilitated through the implementation of a buy-back scheme funded through the HRA.
Members were informed that the current HRA Capital Programme for 2016/17 to 2018/19 included a budget of £8.1m for stock growth. After acquisitions had been made for new house building schemes, there was a residual balance of £5m available which could potentially be used for funding the proposed buy-back scheme.
The scheme would prioritise properties based on valuation, size, condition and location. They would also be subject to a viability check which would include consideration of the rental return against the cost of purchase and repairs. In addition personal circumstances especially around potential severe hardship would also be taken into consideration.
In order to expedite potential acquisitions, especially where there could be severe hardship, affordability issues or personal tragedy, it was proposed that the Strategic Director – Environment and Property, in consultation with the Section 151 Officer be given delegated authority to authorise these acquisitions. A full valuation report for each property would be undertaken by the District Valuer and if considered appropriate and feasible the property to be re-purchased ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Strategic Director – Environment and Property referred to the Housing Strategy scoping document and the Housing Business Plan scoping document that had been circulated. She suggested that Members may wish to consider a joint working group with Growth PDG in respect of the Housing Strategy document and a joint working group with Resources PDG for the Housing Business Plan document.
The joint working groups would review current housing stock, the location of stock, identify drivers, issues and possible responses to the topics contained in both documents as well as consider items raised under the previous item along with any other pertinent issues.
Discussion took place on the frequency of meetings; whether all members should be invited to participate in the working groups; whether the review included private sector housing and whether the strategies would run together or separately. The subject of visits by members to better understand housing issues was discussed and supported. There would also be benefits in the HRA Working Group making visits to a range of Council owned properties as part of the review process.
The Strategic Director – Environment and Property explained that it was anticipated that meetings would take place on a monthly basis, that the working parties would run separately due to the nature of each strategy and that recommendations were required to go before the Executive in October / November 2016. With regards to members involvement, she emphasised that all Members of the PDG would be entitled to attend the working groups as they would have a more in depth knowledge of their particular area and the housing nuances. There may also be a requirement for Members to visit both the north and the south of the District in order to gain a better understanding of the requirements for each area.
The Business Manager – Housing, would arrange for two members from each relevant PDG to visit council-owned properties with an officer to inspect the quality of housing currently provided.
The Chair sought nominations for both working parties and nominations were:
Housing Business Plan Working Group:
Councillors, Barry Dobson, Charmaine Morgan, Ashley Baxter, Mike Exton
Housing Strategy Working Group:
Councillors, Charmaine Morgan, Andrea Webster, Mike Exton
The Strategic Director advised that a copy of both scoping documents would be forwarded to both the Growth and the Resources PDG.
Councillor Barry Dobson left the meeting at 15.45
Any other business, which the Chairman, by reason of special circumstances, decides is urgent
Discussion took place around venues for future Communities PDG meetings and whether they could take place in different areas of the District. A Member felt that public perception within their area was that South Kesteven Council did not have a good understanding of the issues for their particular area and he queried whether meetings could take place in other locations within the district.
The Chair suggested that Members vote on whether meetings should be held in areas, the result of which was 3 for, 3 against and 2 abstentions. The Chair’s casting vote went against.
It was therefore agreed that future Communities PDG meetings would continue to be held at the current venue.
Close of Meeting
Meeting closed at 16.00 hours.