Agenda item

Review of Voids

To review the current void property process and policy to substantially reduce void period and increase revenues to the Council's housing revenue account and make more properties available per annum to those in housing need


In presenting the report, the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning warned of concerns over the process for health and safety and compliance issues due to performance and length of time for voids. He reported that new measurements were now in place towards addressing issues that had been identified; these included structure change to improve efficiency and effectiveness as well as avoidance of silo practice as well as a new KPI reporting process using green, amber and red flags. 


A fully revised Voids Policy would be sent for approval to full Council and, once set up, continue to be presented every three years.


Members raised a number of questions and concerns that included:


·       Delays to keys being returned by vacating tenants. The Interim Head of Technical Services explained that keys not placed in the key safe on the day of vacancy were pursued. The Interim Assistant Director of Housing also explained that where damage to property was proven by the occupant then the tenant was liable to the cost associated with the repair. Random inspections of homes had been introduced however most tenants were dealt with on need due to resource issues

·       While stressing the importance of ‘getting it right first time’, where other items could be identified during a repair and could be adequately corrected /repaired, a tradesman, having reported back to the office, could complete the works required. A culture change away from ‘not doing any more than the assigned job’ was progressing through future structural changes and services

·       Following evaluation of available systems, it had been concluded that Northgate was the favoured software provider

·       Quality of works had been identified as a consequence of lack of project management that through improved monitoring of KPI’s, would be resolved in future. All operations were to move ‘under one roof’ for a more integrated approach. Once in place, the KPI’s would be provided to the Scrutiny Committee

·       Improvements to the stock management system would result in savings

·       A request to consider improved communication of the scrutiny committees


In response to a question by a guest Councillor, the Interim Assistant Director of Housing outlined that future training had been considered to meet compliance requirements as well as to update skills, including traditional apprenticeships. 


It was confirmed that typographical errors identified within the report would be amended.


The Chief Executive confirmed that scrutiny committees should have been made aware of performance which through the new Corporate Plan and associated KPI’s, each scrutiny committee had been assigned management of their respective area. A housing dashboard was required as well as a staff appraisal system. In response to questions by Members she advised:


·       A review of scrutiny had been agreed at the Council meeting held on 17 December 2020. The Local Governance Association had advised that due to consequences of the pandemic no reviews would take place until the summer of this year.

·       A new policy on voids was to be drafted and would be considered by this committee prior to adoption by the Council. This would be reviewed every 2-3 years.

·       Digital feedback to quality of services to feed into the appraisal system and management process was being investigated.


Members then voted to agree the recommendations and to Option 2 as outlined within the report:


1.    Recommends that the Committee notes the report and particularly the potential operational and financial benefits identified in the report by adopting the changes being proposed.

2.    Supports the initial steps proposed to improve performance and the further work needed to achieve a final revised policy proposal was critical to the overall process.

3.    Reports its views and comments on these proposals to Cabinet on 12 January


4.    Receives, at its next meeting, a proposed performance dashboard of key performance indicators.

5.    Supports option 2 as detailed on page 14 of the Voids Report namely:

  Streamlined voids process to reduce overall period and reduced rent loss.

  Introduction of key safe facilities at void properties to reduce days lost for key returns.

  Tighter Contract and Project Management of external contractor activities.

  Virtual inspection process to improve inspection regime leading up to re let.

  Merging of Major and Minor voids team under single management post.

  Better van stock process to reduce lost time collecting materials.

  Early review of current voids standard for consideration by members.

  Reduced costs associated with voids through tighter specification control.




·       To add to the committee work programme to receive a proposed performance dashboard of key performance indicators at their meeting on 11 March 2021.

Supporting documents: