Councillor Johnson, as Portfolio Holder for Housing, was proud to be presenting this third portfolio holder report and began by thanking all officers, council partners and volunteers who had come together to do such a marvellous job in providing the housing services in such difficult times.
Some of the key points made were:
Councillor Spillman thanked Councillor Johnson for the report and on behalf of members thanked officers in the housing department who had undertaken an amazing job during these terrible times. Councillor Spillman questioned whether any new ways of working had been identified during this period that could be carried forward. Councillor Johnson stated this was the actual number of homeless or potential homeless people who the housing team had managed to accommodate and how the team had worked to ensure that nobody went back on the street as rough sleepers.
Councillor J Kent stated that during the pandemic we had learnt the importance of Thurrock’s parks and open spaces and had been disappointed to see that Elm Road open space in Grays still earmarked for development. Councillor J Kent had over 60 letters from local residents objecting to this proposed building and would forward these onto Councillor Johnson. Councillor J Kent asked again to remove the Elm Road open space from this list of site for potential development. Councillor Johnson thanked Councillor J Kent for the feedback and stated this was a consultation process and once the consultation had concluded a decision could be made.
Councillor Byrne echoed Councillor Spillman comments on the great efforts made during this tough year and the great effort made by everyone. It was also important to look at open spaces and keep them as open spaces.
Councillor Allen raised concerns on complaints he had made in regards to damp and mould in Thurrock’s high rise blocks and questioned what the portfolio holder was proposing to do to ensure that residents had acceptable living and safety standards in place in all those properties. Councillor Johnson stated that officers had been commissioned to look at the high rise blocks to see whether this was being caused by the way the building was constructed or down to people’s lifestyles and reassured Councillor Allen that everything was being done to find a solution.
Councillor Rice referred to the residents of the new bungalows in Chadwell who were very pleased with their new accommodation but he had received complaints in regards to the collection of their refuse bins as on occasions they were being missed. Councillor Johnson agreed to take this action away.
Councillor Muldowney referred to the Government not renewing their commitment to rehoming rough sleepers and the homeless and asked for confirmation that Thurrock would continue to work to rehome all rough sleepers. Councillor Johnson reassured that nobody accommodated would return to rough sleeper and aimed to provide long term accommodation for transition to independent living. That 15 households had moved on from temporary accommodation which had been provided by the Council, 14 of which had found and secured accommodation in the private rental sector, nine households had moved on from the temporary accommodation on their own accord and unfortunately five had returned to prison. Councillor Johnson stated he would endeavour to ensure that we kept as many rough sleepers off the streets as the Council possibly could.
Councillor Fletcher stated that mould was a widespread problem and asked not to limit the investigation work to just high rise blocks as there were a number of areas in South Ockendon where mould was becoming a widespread problem and encouraged officers to speak to council tenants in Ockendon. Councillor Johnson agreed that the investigation work should not be limited to just the high rise blocks but as most of the complaints had been received from residents from those high rise blocks, this would be a good place to start.
Councillor Johnson summed up by stating the Council had continued to provide many key housing services for tenants and residents across the borough where performance in several areas had remained strong and good progress had been made in others. That COVID had impacted the delivery of services but officers, partners and volunteers had worked tirelessly to minimise and mitigate wherever possible to ensure that services continued to be provided to those who were in need.