Agenda item

Cabinet Member Report - Housing


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 building plans had been scaled back due to borrowing costs and some projects were no longer on the table. Councillor Spillman empathised with residents as the environment was very difficult at the moment to build, would engage with private sector to see where buildings could be started, and this had been a great frustration.


Councillor Liddiard questioned whether physical checks were carried out on estate repairs that had claimed to be undertaken to which Councillor Spillman stated as a follow up, 10% to 15% of repairs would get checked for quality but would like more follow up checks to be undertaken. 


Councillor Redsell referred to caretaking in estate services and stated this service was not great as work was not being undertaken. She referred to the traveller’s site in Blackshots and questioned whether any officer had actually visited there to see the terrible state that it was in. Did not agree that the percentage of repairs was on target with Blackshots residents complaining about damp and mould being told to get on with it. Councillor Spillman stated caretaking standards varied in certain wards, and reports need to continue to be made to enable services to be levelled out. He would be happy to attend site visits with members if required and would be happy to visit the traveller site. It was vital that officers communicated the correct information with residents on damp and mould.


Councillor Hebb noted the attitude adjustment within the housing team over with the work undertaken by the previous and existing portfolio holder and this had demonstrated that officers did care. He stated there was an independency element missing in the current process in regard to whether damp and mould in properties was a council, structural or a resident issue. Members agreed this was a good idea, with Councillor Spillman stating there was only so much guidance and support a council could give. Ewelina Sorbjan stated there was a task and finish group to develop and work for the benefits of residents and to offer wider protection for the council.


Councillor Worrall referred to the number of HMO unlicensed properties and stated the target had to be reduced, this had to be a priority as the council was losing money.


Councillor Hebb referred to caretaking services and grounds maintenance and whether the concept of using a local area coordinators approach could work, working in tandem with the Tenants and Residents Panels.


Councillor Hebb also referred to housing stock being available for people with changes in life circumstances, this should also include financial circumstances, and possibly an element missing from the strategy would be that when residents financially can, they move out into the private homeownership model which would then unlock properties. Councillor Spillman stated he was personally against this as he valued mixed council estates with different people and would cause a danger of no welfare in areas. Although there was a debate to be had with reasonable arguments both ways.


Councillor Mayes thanked Councillor Spillman for the update which had been a good opportunity for members to ask questions, he could see there was a lot of passion and the housing team had achieved some good results but also recognised that work needed to continue, and those not so good results needed to be resolved.


Councillor Spillman summed up by thanking members for their comments and would be happy to meet with members outside the committee to go through the priorities. It had been a pleasure working with officers who lived, breathed, and had great talents which had made his job easier, and this needed to be retained.

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