Meeting documents

Tenant & Leaseholder Panel
Wednesday, 6th February, 2013

Tenants and Leaseholders Panel Minutes

Wednesday 6th February 2013
The Council Chamber, The Town Hall, Katharine Street, Croydon CR0 1NX

Attendance Details


Michael Hewlett (Chair), Syed Ahmed, Marion Burchell, Ken Coates, Peter Cooper, Bernard Daws, Robert Dean, Sylvia Fletcher, Jim Mansell, Peter Mason, David Palmer, Guy Pile-Grey, John Piper, Stephen Pollard, Marilyn Smithies, Maureen Symes, Laurence Taylor and Kim Wakely.

Councillors Sean Fitzsimons, Tony Harris, Patricia Hay-Justice, Michael Neal and Susan Winborn
Dave Sutherland (Managing Director of Croydon Landlord Services), Sian Foley (Head of Service Development), Tim Nash (Resident Involvement Co-ordinator), Judy Pevan (Stock Investment Manager), Bob Richardson (Head of Planned Maintenance & Improvements), Lorraine Smout (Head of Responsive Repairs), Keith Robbins (Finance Manager), Chris Stock (Resident Involvement & Scrutiny Manager), Elaine Wadsworth (Head of Housing Strategy & Commissioning) Note taker: Margot Rohan (Senior Members' Services Manager)
Councillors Alison Butler and Avril Slipper, Marianne Ascott, Mark Burrell, James Cassidy, Chris Crossdale, Julian Paine, Paul Phillips, Jamil Tarik, Robert Varney, Eric Webb and Colin Wood.

Item Item/Resolution



The Chair welcomed all to the meeting.


Apologies were received from Cllrs Alison Butler and Avril Slipper, James Fraser, Eric Webb and Colin Wood.


The minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 2 October 2012 were agreed as a true record of the proceedings.


There were no matters arising.


Keith Robbins (Finance Manager) gave a summary of the report:

  • Average increase for garage & parking space rents 4.36%
  • Self-financing this year - taken on £223m worth of debt


The following issues were raised:

  • Cannot local councils set their own rents? Explain more about national social rents policy.

Keith Robbins: Following guidelines for last 12 years. Principle - people living in similar housing should pay same rent - whether council or housing associations (HAs). Previously HA rents were higher. Guidance not statutory. When self-financing settlement decided, the government assumed we would continue to follow the policy.and calculated the debt accordingly- if we do not increase rents then it would have cumulative effect, leading to a shortfall in excess of £200m over next 30 years.

  • When garages are used by businesses, why not put those rents up?

Keith Robbins: Rents up by same %. All goes into the same pot and is invested in housing stock.

  • Report talks about impact of benefit cap. Increase in bad debt - what is being done to mitigate that?

Keith Robbins: Bad debt - Croydon has a very good collection rate. Made additional provision to cover impact of benefit cap etc. Want to build up reserve to avoid hit in one year.
Dave Sutherland: Mitigating - lot of work - just over 1200 tenants affected by 'bedroom tax' and around 60 hit by benefit cap. In process of visiting everyone to talk through their circumstances, find out how they think they will cope and to offer advice. Results - vast majority saying they can deal with it. Small % interested in moving - less than 20. Others will charge their family members or absorb the cost.

  • What action taken to support tenants hit by reduction in benefits?

Dave Sutherland: Only small number - under 60.

  • Figure of bad debt - how was this calculated?

Keith Robbins: Do not yet know true impact - increased bad debt provision and will continue to review - if need to increase will do so. Guesstimate. Reviewed every year. If do not use it, it will be put into reserve and can then be used to invest in housing stock.

  • With Universal Credit being paid direct to tenants, will this not increase bad debt?

Dave Sutherland: Universal credit - one benefit. People will receive directly, in arrears. Tenants will be able to budget and prioritise their outgoings. We will have facility to arrange payment direct if people get into difficulty.

The Panel noted: 

1.1 Rent increases for all Council tenants for 2013/14, in line with the National formula for social housing rents. The average rent increase will be 4.36


1.2 That the full cost of services provided to those tenants who receive caretaking, grounds maintenance and bulk refuse collection services are recovered via tenants service charges, this being achieved with a 3.1 increase


1.3 Charges for garage and parking space rents increase by 4.36


1.4 Heating charges for Council tenants remain unchanged, see detailed in Appendix 2


1.5 Recommendation to the Council to approve the budget for the Housing Revenue and Capital Accounts for 2013/14.


Lorraine Smout gave a brief update (see notes - attachment):

  • Resident involvement - 5 residents from Steering Groups - training date 19 February
  • Market briefing day on 17 January - 13 contractors attended
  • Presentations to give flavour of what Croydon's objectives are
  • Closing date for expressions of interest 15 February
  • By 2nd week of March will have 5 shortlisted

Pete Ward sent apologies as he was unable to attend.  Chris Stock summarised the report:

  • Process needs to change - act into effect beginning of April
  • Options currently:
    • try to resolve with responsible officer
    • Then raise formal complaint - dealt with by service manager
    • Stage 2 - investigated by Corporate Complaints Team - signed off by Chief Executive
    • Refer to local government ombudsman
  • From April - complaints to designated person, before case referred to ombudsman - can be tenant panel, local councillor or MP.
  • However, complainant can just wait 8 weeks and then refer direct to ombudsman
  • For local authority to decide on how to progress
  • Tenant Panel: only powers it has is whether it should go to ombudsman - would involve a large number of meetings and responsibility for members of panel - issues around confidentiality and conflicts of interest. Would be independent. Would propose setting up Steering Group to decide on approach.
  • Currently Croydon receives about 30 cases a year which go to ombudsman


The following issues were raised:

  • Can the panel make recommendations?

Chris Stock: Yes, it can make recommendations.

  • Has it been decided if designated person should deal with complaints from own borough or another borough where they would more impartial. What is point if tenant can just wait 8 weeks for ombudsman anyway?

Chris Stock: Government introduced ‘democratic filter' - local people deciding local issues. Lot of opposition so compromise is 8 week rule. Could have tenant panel for whole of Croydon or we could handle all complaints for Merton and they do Croydon. However, different housing policies and procedures may cause complications.

  • Could have panels in different areas covering other areas, to avoid conflicts of interest.

Chris Stock: Could do that. Whenever the new system is implemented, we will advertise what we are doing.


Feedback: 12 in favour of Tenant Panel. None against.


Chris Stock & Scrutiny Panel Member, Sheryl Read, gave feedback regarding scrutinisation of the contact centre:

  • Detailed report setting out recommendations for improvement to the contact centre
  • All recommendations accepted
  • Benchmarking, mystery shopping
  • Weaknesses - 1 in 3 callers waited 10 mins or more
  • 8 meetings and then scheduled to present report to Jon Rouse and Hannah Miller - unavailable on the day but Leonard Asamoah attended
  • Continuing to monitor
  • Looking for next topic


The following issues were raised:

  • Is not the point somewhat redundant as new contractor will be taking over the call centre?

Lorraine Smout: We have asked for new proposals from a new contractor to take over repairs calls but this is only a proposal.


Chris Stock asked for suggestions for other topics for the panel to investigate.
Dave Sutherland suggested looking at the back office function - calls referred to housing officers etc if call centre cannot handle them.


Chris Stock gave feedback:

  • Report how performing against standards - big glossy report which not many read
  • Agreed with residents to do something different - highlighted summary points in Open House
  • 2 main pieces of performance data available - on website: whatsnew
  • Can provide hard copies
  • HouseMark benchmarking report -
    • part of national housing benchmarking club
    • housing management services - costs, satisfaction and performance levels
    • Verify with all councils and produce league tables - comparison with other boroughs - produce report once a year
  • Tenants' satisfaction - HouseMark - standard survey - compare Croydon with other tenants across the UK
    • 4000 tenants sent survey and about 1600 were completed
    • One of key issues - how satisfied with service provided - 77% satisfied - 3% better than previous survey

Tim Nash summarised his report:

  • Sessions set up to enable residents to pose questions to decision makers
  • 2 events - promoted in Open House (one event) and flyers distributed
  • Reports on website: yhyq (7 November 2012)
  • Panel - Cllr Dudley Mead, Dave Sutherland and Peter Brown
  • Majority of questions raised around community safety, policing and ASB
  • Also housing supply and allocation
  • Each session had a pre-meeting surgery for half an hour which residents found useful


The following issues were raised:

  • Observation - far too many of questions related to personal issues.

Tim Nash: Number of people raised that - a lot of issues were of a personal nature and should have been dealt with elsewhere. Question of extending surgery time considered for future events and also suitability of those answering the questions.

  • Quite a few questions raised where no one was available to answer.

Tim Nash: We misjudged and, in hindsight, should have widened those attending to respond to questions. However we did not want to overload events with officers unnecessarily.

  • Good idea to run again. Limit to one question per person.
  • 2 pilots - a lot learnt. People raising personal issues must be stamped on.

Chris Stock: We have reviewed and got some ideas to share with Resident Involvement Group with a proposal for something a little different. Important to have open events but need to be managed in a different way.


London Tenants' Federation (LTF) - Michael Hewlett

  • Met 5 Feb in Hackney - reps from 18 London boroughs
  • Main concern - effect of welfare reforms
  • LTF set up by local authorities - now realised need to engage other social rental organisations in London
  • Will be able to go to Mayor's Housing Forum with stronger voice
  • In last 10 years, London lost 18,000 socially rented housing units
  • Predominance to focus on affordable housing and neglect social rented housing


Mayor's Housing Forum - Michael Hewlett

  • Met 7 December - big concentration on homelessness
  • Homelessness big problem in London - particularly in cold weather
  • Decided to expand forum to include more departments - all housing and related areas to be properly addressed


ARCH - Michael Hewlett

  • Resident group decided to produce leaflets for all members, written by tenants for tenants
  • Will reproduce in Open House
  • Will be available on the web


Comments: Some people do not want to be in houses.
Michael Hewlett: This is a factor.  Where there are large regeneration developments, only 25% will be affordable housing, when rebuilt - losing 75% of existing large estates. Suggestion - London to be given back stamp duty?
When occupiers buy houses, funds can be used to build housing.


Croydon Voluntary Sector Alliance - Guy Pile-Grey

  • Nothing new to report


Croydon Congress - Marilyn Smithies

  • 4th meeting of Croydon Congress 8th November 2012 at Croydon Conference Centre
  • The theme of the meeting was ‘Youth unemployment (16-25); Supporting young people into work'.
  • The keynote speakers were:
    • Jon Rouse, Croydon Council - Youth unemployment - the national and local picture
    • Hazel Renwick, Jobcentre Plus South London District Office - Jobcentre Plus perspective on youth unemployment in Croydon
    • Rt. Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
    • Michael Manning-Prior, Business and Education London South (BELS) - Example of provision: successes/challenges
    • Glynis Gunning-Stevenson, John Lewis at Home Croydon - Reality of recruiting
    • Rob Berkeley, Runneymede Trust - Disrupting persistent patterns of disadvantage and inequality
    • Jordan Heslop, former Croydon College student talking about his actual experiences
  • These were followed by questions & answers from the floor and then round table discussions on main issues or priorities; followed by main action(s) to address priorities
  • Comments made by delegates -
  • About the Presentation:
    • Very informative but some presentations could have been more effective as I found most of presentations straying from youth unemployment and how to help.
    • The presentations were good and it would be good to see the recommendations taken forward.
    • More young people should be involved to get an overall view.
    • I do not believe that questions were answered appropriately to encourage change within the environment.
    • Lots of great organisations and companies in the community but they are not working cohesively.
    • Particular presentations giving practical examples of barriers to access to work were very helpful.
    • Table arrangements in the hall were not really good as the screen was not visible from where our table was.
    • Ran overtime which left us very short of time to discuss issues.
  • Other Comments:
    • Generally, informative event highlighting issues failing Croydon
    • Need to have a care group to take forward the ideas so it isn't just a talking shop
    • Speakers must try to engage with young people attending the event as it is also a networking session. Organisations that attend the event should not be patronising towards young adults
    • The role of schools in preparing children for work and basic life skills was not discussed enough
  • These meetings need to have an ‘Action Plan' to enable points raised at the round table discussions to be taken forward and enable everyone attending to have follow-ups as to what has been decided subsequent to the meeting with a strategy then put in place with timescales to see what if any improvements have been made. Without these as has already been suggested, it is just a talking shop.
  • Next meeting 16 May - long gap between meetings


All Ages Inter-generational Conference - Sian Foley

  • Event 30 October - 85 residents
  • Workshops and local table groups
  • Strategy and implementation plan - ready by end of February
  • Young people keen to work locally, with elderly people on estates
  • Volunteering accreditation - another 3 sessions - young people will have qualification for their work
  • Presentation on 24 January to judging panel - one of young people and Guy Pile-Grey
  • Will know at awards ceremony how successful they have been
  • Shortlisted to last 5
  • Extending youth provision budget programme up to next January
  • Youth clubs, sports activities, mobile play etc


Resident Involvement Champions - Chris Stock

  • Good practice on tenant scrutiny - national conference - invited to Eastern Region Champions conference
  • Run tenants scrutiny network - hosting 27 February - 50 people already booked for that - tenants and officers

Dave Sutherland gave an update on estate visits by Cllr Michael Neal - fully booked up to end of May.
Dates for June through to November available - will bring forms to next TLP meeting.

Guy Pile-Grey offered thanks to council for collecting a lot of food - food depot working to pull together all food banks operating throughout the borough


Maureen Symes - when one telephones 6100 call centre number and press 7 for housing, people are asked for a code/pin number.
John Piper - need code from internet regarding housing issues - but what about those who do not have internet access?
Lorraine Smout followed up and obtained the following response:

"On the PIN number issue, the Access Croydon team advised that this is only in place for things like library books for now, so it must have related to this and is an option on the main Council number but is not a message on the dedicated repairs line."


There were several complaints about the lack of heating in the chamber.  This was followed up and a procedure has been put in place to ensure that the automatic temperature gauge is turned up for future meetings, when the weather is cold.


all in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Croydon at 6.30pm:
30 April 2013
23 July 2013
8 October 2013

There being no further business the meeting closed at 8.21pm.