Meeting documents

Tenant & Leaseholder Panel
Wednesday, 5th February, 2014

Tenants and Leaseholders Panel Minutes

Wednesday 5th February 2014
Council Chamber, The Town Hall, Katharine Street, Croydon CR0 1NX

Attendance Details


Michael Hewlett (Joint Chair), Marilyn Smithies (Joint Chair), Syed Ahmed, Ken Coates, Peter Cooper, Chris Crossdale, Bernard Daws, Bob Dean, Sylvia Fletcher, James Fraser, Jim Mansell, Peter Mason, Guy Pile-Grey, John Piper, Maureen Symes, Laurence Taylor, Kim Wakely and Colin Wood.


Councillors: Alison Butler, Sean Fitzsimons, Tony Harris, Patricia Hay-Justice, Michael Neal, Sue Winborn


Observers: Dave Sutherland (Director of Housing Management Services), Peter Brown (Director of Housing Needs and Strategy), Ian Gray (Tenancy Manager), Sonia Isaacs (Tenancy Manager), Yvonne Murray (Head of Landlord services), Tim Nash (Resident Involvement Co-ordinator), Lorraine Smout (Head of Responsive Repairs), Margaret Padmore (Tenancy Manager), Bob Richardson (Head of Planned Maintenance & Improvements), Keith Robbins (Finance Business Partner HRA) and Elaine Wadsworth (Head of Housing Strategy & Commissioning) and Yaw John Boateng (Tenant Scrutiny Panel)


Note taker: Margot Rohan (Senior Members’ Services Manager)

Councillor Tony Pearson, Aishnine Benjamin, Marion Burchell, James Cassidy, Julian Paine, David Palmer, Paul Phillips, Stephen Pollard and Eric Webb.

Item Item/Resolution

There were no disclosures of pecuniary interest at this meeting.


Apologies were received from Councillor Tony Pearson, Julian Paine, David Palmer, Stephen Pollard and Eric Webb and Sian Foley (Head of Service Development, Adult Services, Health & Housing).


The minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 8 October 2013 were agreed as a true record of the proceedings.


Lorraine Smout introduced Michelle Seale (Corporate social responsibility manager) and Lena Basra (Customer services manager) from Axis.

  • Privately owned family company
  • 590 employees with 12% apprentices
  • Triple A rated
  • Start date 1 April 2014
  • 15 year contract
  • Call handling will be direct with Axis in Croydon
  • Appointments to be slotted directly
  • Performance management team to monitor and improve service
  • Smart, polite operatives - wearing badges
  • Code of conduct
  • Repair update card - if cannot complete work on first visit, will arrange new appointment
  • Various methods of collecting feedback
  • Joint meetings with residents
  • Repairs cover anything within the home (not owned by tenants)
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Dedicated team and supervisor for repair work
  • One of first companies to achieve CommunityMark (document_1.aspx?id=0:37507&id=0:36091)
  • Offering 10 apprenticeships every year and work experience opportunities
  • Various community events


The following issues were raised:

  • Trouble getting through in current system.

Lorraine Smout: Problem you had today with getting through to the Council contact centre will not happen from 1 April, when Axis will take over.

  • As repairs reported direct to Axis, will there be a reduction in Council staff?

Lorraine Smout: Existing contact centre staff (6) are transferring to Axis.  There are 9 posts in the Axis contact centre.  Axis are filling the others with locally recruited or existing staff. They will also be taking over out of hours calls and handling these calls via their Stratford office that deals with all out of hours emergencies across all their contracts.

  • Motor damage caused to property - will operatives be able to identify damage which is claimable under insurance?

Lorraine Smout: If we are aware and have information, we will follow it up.

  • Will it be the same number for contact?

Lorraine Smout: Intention was to keep the same number but there has been a hitch - BT will charge for each transfer! Probably will have a new number - trying to get a gold number. Will also have a separate email address. Housing to publicise this.

  • Will it be a freephone number?

Lorraine Smout: A lot of people phone from mobile phones and that is not free. There would be a cost to the Council.  However, the Smart phone app is free.

  • Is it possible to invite Axis to Residents' Association meetings?

Lorraine Smout: That can be arranged.

  • Does the company pay the London living wage? Apprenticeships and training - is there a scheme so tenants have direct access?

Michelle Seale: We hold constructive awareness sessions. We will invite Croydon residents and anyone else in the area. We do pay London living wage.

  • Repairs - who gets the updates and when will jobs get done? For instance, if main front door breaks down or lights go out and Axis need to be called out, do residents have to call contact centre to find out what is happening? Will Axis email people? Will caretakers and officers be kept informed?

Lorraine Smout: The communal repairs service is high on our list of priorities - it has not been performing as well as hoped. Axis will have a separate supervisor for communal works. Estate inspections will include someone from Axis, plus an operative who may be able to make repairs immediately. We are building an interface which will pass information back into the council system. It has a report so we can keep caretakers updated. It will shorten timescales. There will be more estate inspections - more planned proactive work.

Lena Basra: We will be keeping tenants informed with direct feedback. Nominated champions will feedback updates on communal repairs.

  • Another example: 40 residents in a building - on 7th floor, lift broken down. One person reports it but someone else comes home, not knowing what has happened.  Will you text everyone in building?

Lena Basra: We have the facility.  If we have contact details, we can email. IVR service on system so can advise by phone.

  • Concerns about employment - are you looking at Croydon or elsewhere?

Michelle Seale: Looking to offer work locally, employing local people.

  • Old Town - maintenance of grass. Will grass, bushes etc be dealt with outside this contract? Duppas Court - outside lights disrupted by new light installations.

Dave Sutherland: This is a separate contract - not part of repairs and maintenance. Perhaps we should get together with Axis and Barry Lambton's team regarding co-ordination of works.
Lorraine Smout: We do sometimes end up doing these works if it is a health and safety matter. It is sometimes difficult to contact Thames Water.

  • Making good - general repairs fine but such things as laying a path can lead to damaging grass which is left. Who pays for repairs?

Lorraine Smout: Next Tuesday is Repairs Delivery workshop. Sometimes it is another contractor causing damage. Important to make sure we do repairs if it is our contractors.


Cllr Michael Neal: A lot of work has gone into designing the new contracts, which will benefit tenants. We wish Axis success.


This item was taken before 'Introducing our new repairs contractor Axis'.

Keith Robbins gave a summary of the report:

  • Rent and garage rents will be increased by 4.9% (average)
  • No increase in heating charges for the second year running
  • Service charges will be increased by 3.7%
  • First 2 weeks of April 2014, all tenants' rent will be met by the Council

The following issues were raised:

  • Average in UK is 5.4% Southwark were going to set at 5.4% but reduced to 2.7%. Ealing making no increases. How are tenants going to know how 4.9% was reached?

Cllr Dudley Mead: Page 17 of report. Great varieties of rent increases across the country. Some are 7-8%. Followed government guidelines. 72-73% of tenants do not pay all rent. Need to keep base rental going up so there is no advantage in having council house over private renting. 2years ago took out long term loan. £18m per year was being paid out to compensate less efficient councils. Reserves now £10m+. Told should be £6m. Opportunity to give something back to tenants. So giving back 2 weeks' rent in April. Costing £3m*.

(*Correction: £1.5million)

  • We have a working group for stock investment. Could we have one for rent review next year?
  • No mention about recoveries from third parties - storm damage and motor insurance etc.


Cllr Dudley Mead: Collected 99% of all rent - record. If we know about them, we would make every effort to recover them.

Keith Robbins: We recover wherever we can, including fuel spillages, lamp posts etc.


Yaw John Boateng (Tenant Scrutiny Panel) gave a verbal report and Chris Crossdale was present to respond to questions but there were none:

  • Jul-Sep 2013 - Colin Alexander asked for scrutiny
  • Looking at aspects
  • Mystery shopping and interview with managers and staff
  • Work shadowing
  • Survey of tenants
  • Benchmarking with other social associations
  • All recommendations submitted were taken on board
  • Will ensure action plans are carried out
  • Hard work but rewarding
  • Useful learning curve
  • To scrutinise Neighbourhood Warden team next - report back late summer
  • Request for more people to join the Scrutiny Panel


Dave Sutherland thanked the panel for its hard work. Hoping to have facility for officers to report issues direct to the office from on site - technology should be available in next few months.


Dave Sutherland introduced the Tenancy Managers:

  • Sonia Isaacs
  • Margaret Padmore
  • Ian Gray 

who attended to respond to questions.


The following issues were raised:


Marilyn Smithies: Fieldway inspection on Friday. Agreed that there is going to be serious consideration given to breaking down some of the estate inspections into smaller areas. Will send email to Steve Iles - a lot of things and would have been helpful to have someone from Highways. Will ask why they do not do estate inspections or come round with housing officers.
Dave Sutherland: Will come back on this point.


Colin Wood: Critical previously, with jungle in St Marks Road - now improved and metal grill fixed. No criticism at this time.


John Piper: Inspection - no repairs officer and no councillors. Only one council officer.
Margaret Padmore: We have a few issues with repairs officers not turning up. Some miscommunication. It should not happen again.
Dave Sutherland: Doing mini reorganisation.


Peter Cooper: Estate inspections - caretaker manager should be there.
Sonia Isaacs: They should be present.


Cllr Tony Harris: There are boundary confusions - which are Highways/Housing responsibilities? Duppas Hill Lane - not Highways - who should sweep?  Who should clean gulleys?
Dave Sutherland: We will make a list. Once demarcation issues are resolved, there should be no problem.


Tim Nash gave a summary of the report:

  • Reduced from two fora - North and South
  • Now just one Forum for the whole borough
  • Same issues raised regardless of location


Comment: It was good to hear others' problems.  The meeting was well attended - 30.


London Tenants' Federation (LTF) - Michael Hewlett

  •  No meeting since last one - next meeting Tuesday 11 February 

Mayor's Housing Forum - Michael Hewlett

  • Meeting on 12 December
  • Deputy Mayor gave a presentation 'Homes for London'.
  • Mayor's policy to build 42,000 new homes in next 5 years - 15,000 to be affordable.
  • Meeting focused towards housing associations.

ARCH - Michael Hewlett

  • Met Monday 3 February
  • Drawn up new TOR - covering whole of UK.
  • Next informatioin leaflet on new complaints procedure.
  • Annual Conference - September in Birmingham Town Hall - can send 6 members


Croydon Voluntary Sector Alliance - Guy Pile-Grey

Not able to attend last meeting

Croydon Congress - Marilyn Smithies

  • 6th meeting at Croydon College on 7 November 2013
  • The theme of the meeting was "Pathways to Employment"
  • Facilitator - Mark Eaton, Home Editor, BBC News
  • Panel Sessions:
    • Help & Support
    • Growth & Jobs
    • Education & Employability
  • What worked well?
    • Very good facilitator
    • Informative
  • Areas for Improvement
    • Number of panels needs to be reduced
    • Lack of adult unemployed at meeting and on panels
    • Some of the younger panel members need to be better prepared
    • No mention of Enterprise
    • Smaller group workshops could have been arranged
    • Email database of attendees should be made available
    • The role of schools in helping young people find work
    • Sound system questionable at times
    • The seating layout was too formal and made it difficult to have an interactive session

All Ages Inter-generational Conference

Sian Foley sent apologies and will report back at the next meeting.


Tim Nash referred to the report attached to the agenda. The highlights were:

  • Key activity - a panel has now been set up to look at complaints - those not resolved by council's 2-stage process
  • Panel attended generic training session
  • Further sessions to be provided by resident involvement team
  • Scrutiny next exercise - Neighbourhood Wardens - plans well underway to start in next couple of weeks
  • Constantly looking to recruit to panels
  • Hosting next week London Tenant Scrutiny Network - exchange event - sharing good practice

all in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Croydon at 6.30pm:
Tuesday 1 April 2014

Tuesday 22 July 2014
Wednesday 15 October 2014

The meeting ended at 8:20pm.