Agenda and draft minutes

Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Monday, 21st November, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex RM17 6SL

Contact: Jenny Shade, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

13.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 98 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 29 September 2022.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the 29 September 2022 Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee were approved as a correct record.

14.

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. To agree any relevant briefing notes submitted to the Committee.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no urgent items of business.

15.

Declaration of Interests

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Redsell made a non-pecuniary interest in relation to Item 8 – Blackshots Estate – Proposals for the Way Forward – as she was a ward councillor for Little Thurrock Blackshots.

 

16.

Fees & Charges Pricing Strategy 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 114 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report presented set out the fees and charges in relation to services within the remit of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee with charges taking effect from 1 April 2023, unless otherwise stated. In preparation the proposed fees and charges, directorates had worked within the charging framework and commercial principles set out in section three of this report. Also taken into account were the effect that the increase in interest rates and the cost-of-living crisis had on the local economy, our services and the continued implications from Covid. Further Director delegated authority would be sought via cabinet to allow fees and charges to be varied within financial year in response to changes in government legislation, all other changes in year would be brought back to Cabinet via the service director for transparency. Members were referred to the full list of proposed charges in Appendix 1, and the proposed removal of current fees and charges detailed in Appendix 2 to this report.

 

Councillor Redsell stated the general public would not necessarily understand the spreadsheets and that an explanation on how it worked would be a good idea. Dulal Ahmed thanked Councillor Redsell for the feedback and the format and structure had been looked at on how best to present the information. It was agreed that for next year’s report an explanation of the tables should be included. Councillor Mayes agreed this would be a good ideal going forward.

 

Councillor Hebb agreed the spreadsheets presented a lack of clarity on who the targeted audience would be and questioned whether the fees and charges set out on the two appendices were targeted towards landlords and not private housing users to which he was informed they were.

 

Councillor Hebb stated the report did not overly contextualise the volume of use and that it was not clear what the actual total income per fee line and what the total number of transactions per fee line were, as these had not been set out in any context. Dulal Ahmed stated he did not have the broken transaction lines to hand but in terms of HMO licence fees, £80,000 had been generated in 20/21, £31,000 in 21/22 and in 22/23 to date was £23,000. The average licence fee was just over £1300. What had been seen over the last three years was a decline in the number of licensed application forms. However, what we had seen was the number of landlords that were being detecting as unlicensed had increased therefore the CPN income had gone up as a result. Also, in terms of improvement notices, in 20/21 17 notices had been served, 21/22 36 notices and in 22/23 at the end of October only 10 had been served.  In terms of housing enforcement, it had seen an increase in the number of complaints made to the team, therefore more education and more enforcement action had to be undertaken as a result of the number of landlords not carrying out works within specified times.

 

Councillor Hebb referred  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Housing Ombudsman Report: Spotlight on Damp and Mould pdf icon PDF 200 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This report presented provided an update on how the Council was addressing the management of damp and mould within its housing stock in the context of the Housing Ombudsman’s Spotlight on Damp and Mould Report published in October 2021. The Ombudsman’s report had identified 26 recommendations across four main themes to assist social landlords with the management of damp and mould within its housing stock. The Committee had received two reports in June and November 2021 which had set out the Council’s approach to managing damp and mould within its housing stock. Since the publication of the Ombudsman’s report, Thurrock had made progress in adopting a number of service improvements and measures in managing damp and mould within its properties which were consistent with the Ombudsman’s recommendations. There remained some further progress in some areas, which were highlighted in the report. Members were reminded that the report had been written prior to the tragic event in Rochdale with key learnings coming out of the coroner’s report which the council were reviewing in light of their own approach and practices. Ewelina Sorbjan stated the coroner’s findings would be taken very seriously and that the council already had a very proactive approach. A task and finish group had already been put in place to look at wider partners and other housing associations that operate within the borough.

 

Councillor Redsell stated she had been fighting this for the last 20 years but still people were being placed in properties they should not be in, some of those buildings had been built a long time ago and were falling apart. Councillor Redsell referred to “reasonable state of repair” and stated this should be “good repair”.

 

Councillor Worrall referred to the 18 properties that were known to have on-going issues with damp and mould and stated these were quite high numbers where it was known of reoccurring issues of damp and mould. Councillor Worrall questioned officers if they were confident there were no houses in the state of repair with mould across the ceiling, kitchen and bedrooms, confident that there were no children living in bedrooms with bronchitis and whether there were any medical cases or any live court cases against the council because of the conditions they were in. Mohammed Ullah referred to the legal disrepair cases, the live cases, and stated he received a weekly report of live disrepair cases and would be attending weekly meetings to review the current track of properties where residents had sought legal recourse. Efforts were being made to resolve those cases with those properties being reinspected, resurveyed, treated and matters resolved before they go to a tribunal hearing. That delays with communications with legal representations may occur but would communicate with residents. There was a live repair tracker of live cases that would be reviewed on a weekly basis as part of the council’s practice. Councillor Worrall noted that some government decarbonation fund had been applied for and questioned when this would be known if successful and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.

18.

Allocations Policy Update 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 153 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report outlined the reasons why local authorities were required to have an up-to-date Housing Allocations Policy. Further detail within the report would set out the context surrounding several areas of existing policy where engagement feedback indicated needed updating. The report recommended changes that the council should make to the Housing Allocations Policy which would ensure that the document adapts, remained fit for purpose, meet the needs of residents seeking to access the Housing Register and supported the delivery of the aims, objectives and principles of the housing service and wider organisation. Members were referred to the appendix which was a draft working document.

 

Councillor Mayes thanked officers for the report. Councillor Mayes agreed to reducing the age criteria for sheltered houses but stated he felt this should not go any lower than 55. He was also mindful that some residents needed more help than others and residents should not be charged for items they do not need or use. Ryan Farmer commented that the concept of sheltering housing was less about the age of those that lived in them and more around those that needed housing related support.

 

Councillor Redsell referred to “Band 5 – No Housing Needs” and questioned why these were still required as there was no need for them. Ryan Farmer stated when the policy had been last updated, no applicants would be accepted into Band 5 except for those who had been within the age criteria for sheltered housing at that point in time. A strategic decision had been made that if residents wanted to move to sheltered housing and benefit from the support even if there was no housing need, they would continue to be supported. The renaming of this band could be considered to prevent any confusion. Councillor Redsell referred to the “Stay Put Policy” and stated residents needed to know more about this policy to which Ryan Farmer stated the high-rise blocks were built with compartmentalisation in mind and designed to be that way to keep people safe and also those tackling the fires. He stated this was the advice given and shared with residents and there remained a need to inform residents. Officers shared handy leaflets and lots of guidance to residents and also took time to talk to residents about what they would need to do in the case of fire.

 

Councillor Liddiard referred to page 103, paragraph 1.1.1 and questioned whether this was true that the sheltered housing officer makes courtesy calls to every tenant each morning. Stated that warden duties were different dependent on who the warden was and more needed to be done. Councillor Liddiard referred to page 105, paragraph 6.1.1 and asked for clarification that those applicants with rent arrears on a current tenancy or council tenancy within the last six years would not get onto any band. Ryan Farmer stated sometimes the best thing to do for those people was to help them to move, sometimes into a smaller property where they would pay less  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.

19.

Blackshots Estate - Proposals for the Way Forward pdf icon PDF 106 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were briefed on the report that sought approval for the development of the proposals for the Blackshots estate for consultation with residents.

 

Councillor Mayes thanked Julian Wain for the report.

 

Councillor Redsell stated with some frustration that the development proposals were not moving quickly enough as she had been fighting for this for nearly 20 years and wanted to see this come to fruition. Councillor Redsell questioned why Chapel Farm, land south of Stanford Road and Horndon recreation ground had been identified as potential options. Referred to the land around the flats and the 56 acres of fields that should be included into the specification. That it was not right to let these three buildings remain which were not fit for purpose and which the council had said were not fit for purpose. The survey confirmed that residents liked where they lived, they just did not like what they lived in. Julian Wain stated the intention of the report was about clarifying the principle of demolition and starting at the beginning of the process. Members were informed there had been a number of council sites examined but to date no consideration had been made of private sites. This was partly because of location and redeveloping the local area. It was also not wise to add the cost of purchasing private land to the cost of the scheme. In terms of the Fields in Trust land, should replacement be necessary all suggestions were welcome.

 

Councillor Liddiard asked for clarification that the aim was to repair and upgrade the high-rise blocks and then put a redevelopment plan in place to knock the flats down and put those tenants into new buildings. Julian Wain stated rather than spending large amounts of money on doing that, a scheme would be developed for knocking the flats down and replacing them with the housing department committed in the short term to maintaining them.

 

Councillor Liddiard suggested that some high-level discussions take place to discuss the project plan and finances that the whole council could agree to, not just this committee. That a decision should not be made until discussions had taken place with planning, the leader and all members. Julian Wain stated this report would go to cabinet for a decision and stated that whatever development was agreed would also go to Cabinet and would be subject to planning permission.

 

Councillor Mayes stated the reason for the report was to move forward and although this was a cabinet decision all members wanted the best for their residents.

 

Councillor Hebb stated the high-rise flats were a failed post war experiment that did not work in Thurrock or nationally. Councillor Hebb suggested that members visited and looked at some of the issues first hand which would be helpful to understand. The report contained a strong indication of viewpoints and was relatively balanced so there was a will but questioned was the skill in the Council. Councillor Hebb stated members needed some assurances that this project would be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.

20.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members made the following comments on the work programme:

 

Members made the following comments on the work programme:

 

HMO Strategy report to be added to the 7 March 2023 committee.

 

Ukrainian Settlement Scheme report to be added to the 7 March 2023 committee.

 

The role of the Estate Officer report to be added to the 7 March 2023 committee.