Agenda and draft minutes

Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 16th June, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: This meeting will be held virtually online and can be watched live via https://www.youtube.com/user/thurrockcouncil

Contact: Wendy Le, Democratic Services Officer  Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 329 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 11 February 2020.

 

Minutes:

Referring to page 12, the Chair said that the Committee had not received the figures from officers for the number of complaints upheld on housing performance. She asked if these could be covered within item 5.

 

The minutes of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 11 February 2020 was approved as a true and correct record.

2.

Urgent Items

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.

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

3.

Declaration of Interests

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

4.

Housing KPI Performance (2019/2020) pdf icon PDF 636 KB

Minutes:

Presented by Carol Hinvest, she gave an outline of the report on pages 15 – 22 of the Agenda which highlighted a strong year of performance within the Housing service and that overall, levels of satisfaction with the service had increased in 2019-2020 compared to what the data showed from 7 years ago.

 

The questions and comments provided by Lynn Mansfield were read out by Democratic Services:

 

·         Why were voids increasing, these needed to be looked at as these were far too high. Lynn was aware there was a standard but these should be all the same.

·         The full consultation that was undertaken was good.

·         Lynn noted that there was no mention of Local Area Co-ordinators (LACs) who should be mentioned as the work they undertook was just as good as what Inclusion Officers did, so well done to LACs as well.

 

Carol Hinvest explained that the voids were not increasing and that the number of days to turn around standard and capital voids. Regarding LACs, these were unrelated to housing performance and had focused on the Financial Inclusion Officers who had been able to collect 98.5% of rents despite the challenges in the current climate of welfare reforms that resulted in an increasing number of residents on Universal Credit. Support from the LACs were appreciated when they were involved but not all residents required a LAC in financial difficulties.

 

Referring to paragraph 3.4 on page 19 of the Agenda, Councillor Abbas sought clarification on the increase of 47% in tenants claiming Universal Credit. Carol Hinvest explained that the increase was due to a tenant’s change in circumstances such as a change in jobs or moving homes so resulted in a move from their old benefits and onto Universal Credit. She went on to say that the government’s reform was to move working age adults from benefits and onto Universal Credit. She explained that the service’s officers had visited these affected 47% tenants (which amounted to 1390) and had secured discretionary housing payments for 55% of those tenants who had submitted an individual application for this. This had been the result of it being a 53 week rent year which occurred every 6 – 7 years but many social landlords along with other lobbying organisations, had been asking the government to change the rules regarding Universal Credit as it currently took into account 52 weeks being in a rent year.

 

Referring to the lists of measures shown on pages 16 – 18 of the Agenda, the Chair questioned if these were the full lists of performance indicators for the service and whether a more detailed breakdown of the indicators (such as separating housing statistics into sheltered housing, low rise flats etc) could be given to the Committee if requested. Carol Hinvest explained that the lists showed the corporate performance indicators that were reported to the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Within the service, there were other indicators used to measure the service’s performance but these were reported together and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Tenant and Leaseholder Satisfaction Monitoring pdf icon PDF 584 KB

Minutes:

Presented by Chris Seman, the report set out the details on the service’s current approach to measuring tenant and leaseholder satisfaction including detail on the current methodology and frameworks used to collect satisfaction data and calculate satisfaction rates. The report also set out the current programme of satisfaction monitoring for 2020/21 to enable the service to gain a much broader understanding of tenants and leaseholders views on services and to better understand their needs.

 

The questions and comments provided by Lynn Mansfield, Housing Tenant Representative were read out by Democratic Services:

 

  • The idea of the postal survey was brilliant.
  • On the diagram on page 25, 3.4, a different response should have been given for the ratings of dissatisfaction between ‘fairly dissatisfied’ and ‘very dissatisfied’. Response choices was not clear or good.
  • In 3.5, it was not clear and Lynn asked for more clarification on how the satisfaction rates were calculated.
  • On page 27’s diagram, Lynn thought the percentage results were low and needed to be looked at in terms of how these could be improved, particularly the last 3.
  • In 5.4, Lynn asked for clarification on the 2 questionnaires that was to be sent out, were both of these postal, if so, why were 2 questionnaires needed.

 

Officers explained that the second mailing of the questionnaire would only be sent out to tenants who had not completed the questionnaire yet. The questionnaires were managed by KWEST and the completed questionnaires were sent to them and the results that came back to the council were anonymous. Regarding 3.4, the owners of the methodology, Housemark, had consulted with landlords and 13,000 tenants and had found the resulting methodology was a better method in expressing responses. Some responses before such as the term ‘fair’ was misunderstood as some took it to mean reasonably good but the service viewed this response as a measure of dissatisfaction. ‘Neither satisfied or dissatisfied’ was seen to be a much clearer response. The consultation had shown that tenants wished to see the 5 responses chosen to continue as it gave a wider range of responses to express their response. On how the satisfaction rates were calculated, ‘Very Satisfied’ and ‘Fairly Satisfied’ were included into the satisfaction percentage figure. Regarding the diagram on page 27, Officers explained that a full postal survey would give more data as it would ask more questions that would enable the service to look deeper into the gathered data. Although the figures appeared low, these were good figures when compared to other local authorities and some were over 90%. A quarterly benchmarking exercise was suggested where the service would compare their gathered data against Housemark’s gathered data from similar local authorities of size to Thurrock Council.

 

Councillor Abbas questioned how tenant satisfaction rates were measured and what feedback was given regarding repairs and contractors. Carol Hinvest explained that a monthly Satisfaction survey was undertaken which asked residents about their experiences with the repair work that had been undertaken in their homes. A  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Housing Development Programme Update pdf icon PDF 234 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Presented by David Moore, the report provided an update on the progress of the Housing Delivery Programme. He referred Members to the added site of River View and said that the site was in Chadwell St Mary and not Corringham as the report stated.

 

The questions and comments provided by Lynn Mansfield were read out by Democratic Services:

 

·         The River View site was a welcome addition and Chadwell St Mary had the right infrastructure.

·         Lynn Mansfield was pleased to see the removal of the 5 sites.

·         Regarding Broxburn Drive in the site options list in appendix B, Lynn Mansfield asked what type of dwellings would be on site. The site was small and would be difficult to fit 60 dwellings into the site. Would the dwellings be flats and would these be high rise or low rise flats? She also asked the type of dwellings that would be on other sites as well.

 

Officers answered that the number of the dwellings assigned to each site in appendix B were only indications and had not been finalised yet. The type of dwellings would be a mix of low rise flats and houses.

 

Referring to the Broxburn Drive site, the Vice-Chair sought clarification on whether the site proposed was where the garages were. Keith Andrews confirmed that there were garages that ran parallel to the railway line and the site had potential for development, in fill or an extension of the existing blocks of flats. The site had not gone out to consultation yet.

 

Councillor Redsell asked if remaining sites had been through the community engagement process yet. David Moore confirmed that these had been through the early investigatory works, and with River View, the site list was now 16 sites. Once each site was fully investigated, these would then go out to consultation which was currently delayed due to the government guidelines in place for COVID-19.

 

Referring to paragraph 3.3, Councillor Abbas asked if the final total of homes to be delivered would be 703. David Moore pointed to paragraph 3.4 and said that the final number of homes would be up to 708 but that if more sites were identified, these would be reported to the Committee. He went on to say that there were housing targets to reach and that as part of the consultation process, Members and residents were made aware of the identified sites and that their comments and objections were taken into account. These helped the service in the process of identifying suitable sites.

 

Noting the locations of the identified sites in appendix B, Councillor Abbas asked why these had all been identified in the west side of the Borough and not the east side. David Moore explained that the sites had been identified from different sources, as explained in the November 2019 paper to Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, but the choice of sites were influenced by the Local Plan as the east side of the Borough was mainly Green Belt which could not be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Housing Development Consultation Process pdf icon PDF 253 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Presented by David Moore, the report outlined the framework and process for the Council’s Housing Development Programme and set out how the consultation process would be brought forward to include Councillors and local residents on sites.

 

The questions and comments provided by Lynn Mansfield were read out by Democratic Services:

 

  • Appendix A was good but the process would be too long and may be difficult to keep the interest from others there.
  • Appendix B’s process would be sufficient. Once the consultation process was over, Lynn Mansfield asked how long it would take before building works would commence. She thought leaflets were good but having more drop-in sessions would be a better idea.

 

Keith Andrews explained that there were two different consultation processes proposed because the one to be used would be dependent on the size and complexity of each site. For example, the Culver Centre and Field would benefit from using the consultation process in appendix A. Each site had different timescales and projects. Once the consultation process ended, building works could take 12 – 18 months as it would dependent on the planning process and the size of the site. This timescale varied across sites.

 

The Committee discussed whether the COVID-19 pandemic had caused a delay in the timescales of the sites. Officers confirmed that there was an impact on 6 of the sites as the consultation process had been delayed. The Committee queried how consultation would take place and felt there should be some face to face interaction once the pandemic was over and not wholly digital.  Officers said that letters could be sent out to residents, with the possibility of accompanying grid sheets for reference and officers or consultants could then discuss with residents over the phone. This method was more labour intensive but some local authorities were using this method. The Committee welcomed the idea of the two different consultation processes and agreed that complex sites required more time.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Committee commented on the proposed consultation process.

8.

Housing Social Value Framework pdf icon PDF 273 KB

Minutes:

Presented by Susan Cardozo, the report set out the principles applied when procuring works or services for Housing.

 

The questions and comments provided by Lynn Mansfield were read out by Democratic Services:

 

  • Page 57 - were the apprentices from Thurrock? Were they brought in from other areas outside of Thurrock?
  • The training given on procurement and tender was excellent as Lynn Mansfield had attended this herself.
  • Regarding Wates, could the Tenants Excellence Panel be provided with a report that detailed the works and programmes run by Wates and other providers? It was ideal for the Residents Association to know of these works and programmes so they are up to date on what took place within their community as they were not informed of these.

 

Susan Cardozo said that the apprentices were from Thurrock and that this was a requirement. Regarding Wates, the Tenants Excellence Panel could invite Wates or any other provider to give a report to the panel.

 

Councillor Redsell commented that it was good to see a number of apprenticeships working in Thurrock. She went on to say that more detail was needed as to where the sites mentioned in the report were within the Borough.

 

The Chair felt that a lot of good work was put into social value but was often unnoticed. She questioned whether social value could be added up financially. Susan Cardozo explained that there was no specific method to measure social value and contractors used different models to measure. Some of these included adding the costs of the money spent, costs of the hours put in and the costs of the equipment used. She went on to say that the service was feeding into the Corporate Social Value Framework with the Corporate Team to ensure a consistent method of measuring social value. Councillor Redsell commented that feedback could be sought from other wards on the social value work that was being undertaken and these could be heard from community groups.

 

The Chair questioned whether more apprenticeships could be acquired through procurement contracts. Susan Cardozo explained that some contracts were not long enough for an apprenticeship but would be requesting for more apprenticeships in contract requirements. The service was also looking into work experience in contracts and said that some apprenticeships came from trade schools. The Chair encouraged the service to find ways to incorporate conditions of social values whether it was through projects with other partners or with colleges to ensure positive outcomes. She praised the service for the good work of social value. Councillor Redsell suggested that the service look into small businesses to secure apprenticeships.

 

Regarding the Transforming Homes Programme, the Chair suggested that more Thurrock suppliers could be acquired here and to encourage local spending.

 

RESOLVED:

 

Housing Overview and Scrutiny members:

 

1.1      Noted the approach taken to commissioning the Housing investment contracts to secure social value outcomes.

 

1.2      Noted the recent performance and community benefit projects achieved.

 

(Suspending orders were agreed at 9.15pm to allow Members to continue until the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Housing Service COVID-19 Response pdf icon PDF 177 KB

Minutes:

Presented by Carol Hinvest, the report set out the actions that had been taken by the Housing service due to the challenges which had been faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The questions and comments provided by Lynn Mansfield were read out by Democratic Services:

 

  • The service had been excellent in handling the COVID-19 crisis but there had been some reports at the start from elderly residents - workers had been going into homes of the vulnerable to undertake maintenance checks. However, following on from reporting these to the Council, this had now stopped and Lynn Mansfield thanked the service for resolving this quickly.
  • At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Lynn Mansfield had received her letter stating she was vulnerable and to follow shielding guidelines and also offered a food package. However, they were supposed to receive a phone call but there had been none. She said that vulnerable residents should have received a phone call to check on how they were and whether their situation had changed or if more food packages were needed. There should be some aftercare in place.

 

Carol Hinvest explained that the Housing service did not organise the food packages as it was managed by another team. Those who had been identified as vulnerable had been offered contact and the service had called them. Those in sheltered housing had been contacted by their Sheltered Housing Officer at least twice a week with most tenants being contacted on a daily basis. For those who had not requested a call would have still had a phone call at least to check on them. The service had received the list of those who were shielded.

 

Councillor Redsell said that she had received some good feedback from residents. However agreed that Lynn Mansfield had a good point on an aftercare package as some residents who were shielded were elderly and were likely to be feeling lonely. She went on to say that some residents did not have the technology and it was important that residents received a phone call to ensure they were checked on. Officers gave assurance that contact with shielded residents would not stop. The service’s shielding list had started off with 3,000 and was now over 10,000 and these were classified as critical risk which had been cross referenced with the Social Care Team. The food package support from government should continue until the end of July and after this ended, it would be for the Council to continue the support. When a person was identified as vulnerable, volunteers aimed to make contact within two hours.

 

Councillor Redsell mentioned that Councillor Piccolo had sent letters and medals out to thank those who had been helping in the COVID-19 pandemic. Councillor Abbas echoed this thanks and also thanked the service for all the hard work they had done in these times. He was pleased to see the service had delivered on their promise regarding rough sleepers and in preventing homelessness. He went on to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 23 KB

Minutes:

Presented by Carol Hinvest, the report set out the actions that had been taken by the Housing service due to the challenges which had been faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The questions and comments provided by Lynn Mansfield were read out by Democratic Services:

 

  • The service had been excellent in handling the COVID-19 crisis but there had been some reports at the start from elderly residents - workers had been going into homes of the vulnerable to undertake maintenance checks. However, following on from reporting these to the Council, this had now stopped and Lynn Mansfield thanked the service for resolving this quickly.
  • At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Lynn Mansfield had received her letter stating she was vulnerable and to follow shielding guidelines and also offered a food package. However, they were supposed to receive a phone call but there had been none. She said that vulnerable residents should have received a phone call to check on how they were and whether their situation had changed or if more food packages were needed. There should be some aftercare in place.

 

Carol Hinvest explained that the Housing service did not organise the food packages as it was managed by another team. Those who had been identified as vulnerable had been offered contact and the service had called them. Those in sheltered housing had been contacted by their Sheltered Housing Officer at least twice a week with most tenants being contacted on a daily basis. For those who had not requested a call would have still had a phone call at least to check on them. The service had received the list of those who were shielded.

 

Councillor Redsell said that she had received some good feedback from residents. However agreed that Lynn Mansfield had a good point on an aftercare package as some residents who were shielded were elderly and were likely to be feeling lonely. She went on to say that some residents did not have the technology and it was important that residents received a phone call to ensure they were checked on. Officers gave assurance that contact with shielded residents would not stop. The service’s shielding list had started off with 3,000 and was now over 10,000 and these were classified as critical risk which had been cross referenced with the Social Care Team. The food package support from government should continue until the end of July and after this ended, it would be for the Council to continue the support. When a person was identified as vulnerable, volunteers aimed to make contact within two hours.

 

Councillor Redsell mentioned that Councillor Piccolo had sent letters and medals out to thank those who had been helping in the COVID-19 pandemic. Councillor Abbas echoed this thanks and also thanked the service for all the hard work they had done in these times. He was pleased to see the service had delivered on their promise regarding rough sleepers and in preventing homelessness. He went on to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.