Agenda and minutes

Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 21st November, 2019 1.00 pm

Venue: Witham Room, South Kesteven House, St Peter's Hill, Grantham. NG31 6PZ

Items
No. Item

17.

Membership

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    The Committee to be notified of any substitute members.

    Minutes:

    The Committee were notified that Councillor Linda Wootten was substituting for Councillor Mike Exton.

18.

Apologies

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    Minutes:

    Apologies for absence were received from Councillors’ Kaberry-Brown and Ian Stokes.

     

    An apology had also been received from the Cabinet Member for Communities and HR, Councillor Reid who had a previous engagement.

19.

Disclosure of Interest

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    Members are asked to disclose any interest in matters for consideration at the meeting.

    Minutes:

    None disclosed.

20.

Action Notes from the meeting held on 12th September 2019 pdf icon PDF 201 KB

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    Minutes:

    The action notes from the meeting held on 12 September 2019 were noted.

21.

Updates from the previous meeting

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    Minutes:

    A Member asked for clarity in regard to the reference to Occupational Therapists (OTs) in the notes was this in relation to Disabled Facilities Grants.  The Assistant Director Housing clarified that it was and how the use of OTs within council owned stock affected funding figures.

     

    Due to the election being called and subject to his availability John Turner would be invited to attend the January meeting to speak about the Healthy Conversation consultation.

22.

Turn around on Void Properties

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    Presentation by the Head of Housing Services and the Head of Repairs and Improvements.

    Minutes:

    Members received a presentation from the Head of Repairs and Improvements on the turnaround on void properties which the Committee had asked for at a previous meeting.  A review on voids had been undertaken as the turnaround time did impact on rental income.  The main issues surrounding voids included excessive turnaround times with reoccurring bottlenecks, low up take of stock in areas with limited sustainability, there were in the region of 500 voids per annum which was reaching optimum levels and there had been a notable increase in major voids in the last two to three years.   Loss of rental income was above average at £136,000 in May for between 350 – 380 void properties. 

     

    The Head of Repairs and Improvements then spoke about possible causes for the current void turnaround time which stood at between 52 – 55 days. Causes could be the void process itself, the method of prioritising voids, the condition of the housing stock, some of which may be obsolete stock and tenant’s expectations which may be higher than the minimum letting standards that were currently used.

     

    In order to address the void situation a review group was formed with members of the Housing Team, the Repairs Team and the Business Transformation Team.  The review team mapped the current process and identified bottlenecks and duplication of work and reviewed the processes for prioritisation where the most popular properties were brought forward and they looked at handover processes between all teams.

     

    As part of the recent housing restructure exercise a review of all current void related roles and responsibilities across the Housing and Repairs teams were undertaken.  Roles were redefined to stop repetition. KPi’s had been revised to offer properties within five days of notice being received.  Amendments had been made to the sign-up procedure to remove unnecessary forms.  Re-evaluations had taken place as to what constituted a “priority” void and those in popular locations would be occupied quickly.  The new Tenancy Agreement would include a stronger access provision to enable properties to be accessed to carry out any necessary work.

     

    House mark data had been used to find authorities who were already achieving good turnaround figures and they had been contacted to see how processes could be streamlined and re-aligned to achieve better outcomes.  Work had been done to minimise the number of handovers with training being carried out to enable cross team working and decision making.

     

    Other actions included having a new void re-let standard, the current standard was a minimum letting standard and it could be that tenants’ aspirations were higher than the minimum standard which affected the re-let. It was noted that having a higher standard did have cost implications.  Choice Based Lettings would also be utilised and hard to let properties would have robust assessments carried out to see whether they were unsustainable.  A new housing system (Northgate Housing System) would also be implemented which would improve linkage between assets and housing management.  It was hoped that the planned actions would achieve  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Tenancy Agreement pdf icon PDF 217 KB

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    Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Assistant Director for Housing presented the report on the proposed Tenancy Agreement for tenants. The Council’s current Tenancy Agreements format had been in place for 17 years with statutory changes and good practice being made overtime.  The current documents no longer reflected the current needs of the housing services or the context in which social housing operated.  Changes to the document which covered both Introductory and Secure Tenancy Agreements were outlined within the report and had been undertaken to help with clarity and understanding and to stop duplication. The Tenancy Agreement was a “weighty” document and to cut down on unnecessary content, tenants would be signposted to the Tenancy Handbook for guidance.  

     

    Joint tenancies had been clarified and the responsibilities of joint tenants about issues such as rent payments.  Other changes included the tightening of requirements for allowing access to properties, including carrying out gas servicing or health and safety checks.  Clarification on the rules around damage and improvements to the property with the emphasis on how the Council as landlord would enforce the sanctions if tenants damaged property or carried out improvements without permission.  The new document emphasised the tenants responsibilities with regard to minor repairs and clarified the rules in relation to disclaimers for improvements taken on by new tenants.  Rules around conditions in relation to animals and pets had also been clarified which allowed a more flexible approach, providing more discretion on how they were managed and enforced as it was acknowledged the companionship animals gave.

     

    There had been 440 responses, 300 of which had no comments and 140 had comments, of the responses with comments 60 were in relation to the tenancy agreement and 80 were in relation to other issues.  The main comments received were listed in the report but included having no smoking in shared communal areas, assistance required if someone could not do minor repairs and the number of pets.  The comments had been taken on board and put into the draft Tenancy Agreement.   Once the draft document had been adopted by Cabinet it would come into force from 1st April 2020.

     

    Members then discussed the document and the following comments and questions were made.

     

    ·         What was meant by immoral – could there be examples within the document.  It was noted that the terms used had been taken from the legislation in the Housing Act.

    ·         What support was provided to those who were evicted, it depended upon what led up to the eviction and the reason for it – if issues arose, anti-social behaviour, rent arrears etc intervention was put in place quickly to try and mitigate issues.   

    ·         The percentage turnover rate for council evictions was not high but it depended upon whether the tenant had made themselves homeless due to their actions or they had become unintentionally homeless.  The Council did try to work with tenants so that they could remain in their home.

    ·         Responsibility for gardens was discussed in relation to breaches and tenants who were unable to look  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Extra meeting of the Rural and Communities OSC

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    Members to agree date.

    Minutes:

    The Chairman informed the Committee that an extra meeting of the Committee was required and asked Members to agree to hold an extra meeting of the Committee on Thursday 16th January 2020.

     

    Ø  Action Note

     

    The Committee agreed to hold a further meeting of the Rural and Communities OSC on Thursday 16th January 2020.

     

     

25.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 92 KB

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    Minutes:

    Members were informed of the items for discussion at the next meeting of the Committee.  Items included the Housing Strategy, Healthy Conversation, Customer Experience Strategy, Streamlining Community Guide and the Safeguarding Policy.  The Committee were also notified about a request from a Member to look at the “Stop the Knock” campaign and for this to be included on the agenda for the next meeting.

     

    One Member asked what the Healthy Conversation was to which the Chairman replied.

     

    Members agreed with the items for inclusion on the next agenda.    It was noted that if John Turner was not available for the January meeting he would be invited to the February meeting of the Committee.

26.

Close of meeting

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    Minutes:

    Meeting closed at 2:14pm.