Agenda and minutes

Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Tuesday, 7th March, 2023 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 2, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex RM17 6SL

Contact: Jenny Shade, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Email:


No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 108 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 10 January 2023.


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The minutes of the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on the 10 January 2023 were approved as a correct record.


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.

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There were no items of urgent business.


Declaration of Interests

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Councillor Redsell made a non-pecuniary interest in relation to item 7 as she lived in the Blackshots area.


Cabinet Member Report - Housing pdf icon PDF 282 KB

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Councillor Spillman presented his portfolio report, which can be found from the following link:


(Public Pack)Agenda Document for Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 07/03/2023 19:00 (


Councillor Spillman paid tribute to the housing team officers and it had been an absolute pleasure in working with them and stated the achievements made within his report were the achievements of officers as a lot of the work had been undertaken at every level and that needed to be taken into account.


Councillor Spillman touched on the following items within his report:


-       First priority was homelessness with the homeless service in the council being first class, with results being achieved.

-       Most frustrating had been housing development with some plans no longer viable due to increasing interest rates. With Blackshots being the most exciting regeneration project the council had been seen for some time.

-       Referred to Housing Regulations and big changes that would need to be made next year that will need to be responded to. Other regulations issues regarding damp and mould and safety checks, and with league tables being published.

-       Damp and Mould. Thurrock council was more forward in the process when compared to other councils, undertaken a deep dive and being proactive. To identify those properties not aware of and act upon.

-       Repairs were above adequate, contract with Mears was performing well and had a close relationship with them.

-       Transformation and joined up working with estate officers and frontline officers working closely with colleagues and making each visit count.

-       The budget was tough, and savings would need to be made with no damage to services.

-       The portfolio was now in a much better place, the housing department was in a good place considering the environment, being portfolio holder had been a good experience and appreciated the interaction and feedback.


Councillor Mayes thanked Councillor Spillman for the brief overview of his portfolio and referred to damp and mould, he had concerns as this was a long-term project and within the council’s current financial situation that every effort must be made to ensure residents were not living in awful conditions. He questioned whether any claims from residents had been made against the council for damp and mould who were not getting the services that should be delivered. Councillor Spillman did not know the number, but he was aware that claims had and will be made against the council which would be dealt with by the legal team. To ensure that control measures were in place to make sure the department acted immediately and suitably. Councillor Mayes requested that number be provided to committee members outside the meeting. Councillor Spillman stated it was education and communication between the council and tenants to prevent damp and mould in properties.


Councillor Worrall stated those residents trapped in unsuitable flats was not good enough and questioned what the portfolio holder’s message would be to those residents who were unable to move as building work had stopped. Councillor Spillman stated  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.


Blackshots Estate - Demolition and Redevelopment pdf icon PDF 125 KB

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Julian Wain presented the report that requested the committee to consider and comment on further approvals required relating to the redevelopment of the Blackshots estate. The report proposed a site area for redevelopment and advised that Cabinet authority be sought for the vacation of the blocks and the making of appropriate payments to displaced residents.


Councillor Redsell stated the project should be further on than it was now as this meant another year for residents in those blocks, she was not happy with the plans as greenbelt did not need to be taken to deliver this project, there were other options that needed to be looked at and possibly used. Any plans to build six or more high flats she would be against as the same problems would occur in 20 or 30-years’ time, people deserved a decent place to live. Councillor Redsell acknowledged there was still a long way to go and hoped the consultation sought the views of residents and that information being provided to residents from officers was correct. Julian Wain thanked Councillor Redsell for her continued support and stated the consultations would look to minimise that and provide the most efficient scheme possible. An exhaustive list of sites had already been explored but if there were any other sites these could be looked into and stated there was a balance between height and land tag. Ewelina Sorbjan agreed the message had to be correct and there should be no reason for officers not to know what was happening.


Councillor Worrall thanked officers for the very detailed report and stated she was pleased there was finally some progress being made on this. That families did not deserve to be stuck in high-rises which were just not fit for purpose and questioned whether those families could choose where they go and have priority. She was concerned that one of the options was to demolish and leave the land and could therefore lose the revenue from the housing, rents and council tax. Councillor Worrall questioned whether leaseholders were happy that the blocks were coming down and whether the amount of money being offered by the council was satisfactory to prevent any disruption of demolition. Julian Wain stated approval had been sought from commissioners for disturbance payments, leaseholder negotiations and the development of the business case. One of the things that would be asked of the contractor was how the project could be phased and the best chances of undertaking a one-phase decant. This was subject to procurement, subject to a scheme that was financially viable and why the study was so important to get something designed that would work. The sample of leaseholders was small and one of the real importance of the consultation.


Councillor Liddiard questioned whether residents realised there would be an increase in rent to which Julian Wain stated this would be based on affordable rent and, as yet the council had not set a firm policy decision. Councillor Liddiard referred to a potential scenario of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.


Estate and Tenancy Management - Roles and Responsibilities pdf icon PDF 442 KB

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Peter Doherty presented the report and explained how the estate and management services were currently delivered and highlighted the future ambition for the roles and responsibilities relating to estate and tenancy management.


Councillor Redsell stated she did not agree to the new role as there were already estate officers who needed to be made more accountable. That council tenants should take more responsibility of where they lived and their outside space. Councillor Redsell praised the work of some estate managers but stated there was still a big learning curve to make this better and to work alongside the cleaner and greener teams to make the area look better. Peter Doherty stated that action plans had now been introduced in a number of areas and were working quite well but the biggest issue was around the lack of a digital platform. This would enable the council more transparency in reporting, collecting data and to be able to utilise that information. Focus going forward would be on neighbourhood officers and digitalisation which would drive forward improvements and to make council tenants take more responsibility for where they live.


Councillor Worrall strongly agreed that some of the estates were a disgrace, not across the board but everywhere should be nice place to live. That in cases, herself having to report rubbish as caretakers and housing officers had just ignored it, that estate managers need to take responsibility and show that they were doing their job, and this should be better. Councillor Worrall questioned why we were still using paper-based reporting and stated that somebody should be checking that estate managers dashboards to ensure they were not being manipulated.


Councillor Liddiard welcomed the report and strategy, suggested that meetings were undertaken with estate managers to prioritise what needed to be undertaken and asked when this was implemented that it be tested in Tilbury first.


Councillor Hebb agreed this was a sensible and practicable approach, referred to the “Report-It” function on the website and questioned why smart phones to report issues were not being used by officers and to look to other authorities, such as London, where these schemes were running successfully. Ryan Farmer stated there were different technical solutions being used and steps were taken to expand services and hopefully by the summer there would be something positive to share. For clarity, Councillor Hebb supported the report and urged officers to engage with the IT and Transformation on the customer services strategy, particularly on customer self-service.


Councillor Mayes proposed a new recommendation to state that technology should be used to enable reports to be provided to ward councillors to enable them to understand what was taking place in their ward.


Councillor Liddiard stated the report referred to efficiencies and questioned whether this was going to save money or cost the council more to which Peter Doherty stated savings would not be the key driver it was about providing better services.


Councillor Redsell reminded the committee that not all residents used technology and were not  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.


Homes for Ukraine Response Programme pdf icon PDF 167 KB

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At 9.15pm, the Chair moved standing orders to extend the meeting by a further 15 minutes.


Dulal Ahmed presented the report that reflected the activities of the service during the year. The challenges faced by the Council during 2022 were well publicised and this report should be read in that context. Future service activity would need to reflect the intervention the Council found itself in. Particularly difficult decisions would need to be made on levels of service and methods of service delivery during 2023 and beyond.


Councillor Hebb thanked all those involved, the help provided in this humanitarian crisis and that ultimately the objective would be to help people return back to Ukraine and raised a couple of points:


Whether the 10% dropout withdrawal was due to there not being a full appreciation of what the role of the host was and asked for some clarification on the root cause of this. Referred to page 34 of the agenda, “wrap around services” and questioned what pastoral help and support was being provided to accommodation their lives here as best as possible. Requested further details around the wellbeing and suitability assessment between the host and sponsor and referred to the guidance provided through the job centre about building a life and career but ultimately people would want to go back to their families. Dulal Ahmed provided the following responses, in that the 10% of sponsors that had withdrawn from the scheme were properties that were not suitable as well as circumstances of sponsors changing. In regard to support, sponsors and guests were provided with a welcome sponsors pack, guest handbook and a template of house rules. This provided clarity on the role of the sponsor, expectations, and rules around what the guests would hope for and help in terms of resolving any problems with relationship breakdowns. There had been a lot of lessons learnt through the process in terms of resettlement support. In regard to the housing options, updates were available on the web site, regularly producing newsletters for sponsors which covered a range of issues to support the sponsors and their guests, regular conversations took place with the job centre around employment options. In terms of property and safeguarding checks these were undertaken monthly with sponsors and guests, working closely with the adult and children’s services teams.


Councillor Redsell raised a concern that people may get lost in the system to which Dulal Ahmed stated Thurrock would still have a duty to that Ukrainian guest if they were to move to another part of the borough or had problems with housing options they would be referred back to Thurrock for support, which was part of the funding. Councillor Redsell questioned whether the six-monthly checks was sufficient as a lot could happen in that time to which Dulal Ahmed stated monthly checks were undertaken, six monthly checks was the government’s guidance on what was expected of local authorities as part of the scheme.


Councillor Worrall thanked officers for the report  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35.


Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) - Verbal Update pdf icon PDF 134 KB

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Members were referring to the tabled briefing note and were provided with an update on the Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) controlled under mandatory and additional licensing within Thurrock. Members were provided with an update on unlicensed HMOs, how the process and validation practices worked.


Due to timings of the meeting, all members agreed this item should come back to committee as there were more questions to ask and required more time for these to be presented. This item would be added to the 2023/24 work programme.


The briefing note can also be viewed from the following link:


(Public Pack)Item 9 - Briefing Note - Houses of Multiple Occupation Agenda Supplement for Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 07/03/2023 19:00 (



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 72 KB

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Members discussed the work programme and agreed the following items be added to the 2023/24 work programme:


  • Housing Development
  • CO1
  • Houses of Multiple Occupation
  • Repairs Performance



The Chair thanked members and officers for their contribution to this committee over the past year.