Agenda and draft minutes

Scrutiny Streets, Environment & Homes Sub-Committee
Tuesday, 4th February, 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Katharine Street, Croydon CR0 1NX

Contact: Stephanie Davis
020 8726 6000 x84384  Email: stephanie.davis@croydon.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1/20

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 96 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 17 December 2019 as an accurate record.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 17 December 2019 were agreed as an accurate record.

2/20

Disclosure of Interests

In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and the statutory provisions of the Localism Act, Members and co-opted Members of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to register disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) and gifts and hospitality to the value of which exceeds £50 or multiple gifts and/or instances of hospitality with a cumulative value of £50 or more when received from a single donor within a rolling twelve month period. In addition, Members and co-opted Members are reminded that unless their disclosable pecuniary interest is registered on the register of interests or is the subject of a pending notification to the Monitoring Officer, they are required to disclose those disclosable pecuniary interests at the meeting. This should be done by completing the Disclosure of Interest form and handing it to the Democratic Services representative at the start of the meeting. The Chair will then invite Members to make their disclosure orally at the commencement of Agenda item 3. Completed disclosure forms will be provided to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion on the Register of Members’ Interests.

Minutes:

There were none.

3/20

Urgent Business (if any)

To receive notice of any business not on the agenda which in the opinion of the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, be considered as a matter of urgency.

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

 

The Chair announced that the running order of business had been changed and the items would be heard in an order different to those published which would be:

 

1. Cabinet Member Question Time

2. Housing Revenue Account 

3. Axis Responsive Contract Review

4. Brick by Brick Business Plan 2020/21

 

4/20

Cabinet Member Question Time: Cabinet Member for Homes and Gateway Services pdf icon PDF 987 KB

Question Time with the Cabinet Member for Homes and Gateway Services, Councillor Alison Butler.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Homes and Gateway Services, Councillor Alison Butler gave a presentation, during which the following points

were noted:

 

  • The vision for the service was that everyone deserved a decent home.

 

  • There was ongoing work to further reduce the amount of families residing in temporary accommodation with a review of supply conducted for both the private sector and council temporary accommodation.

 

  • As part of the reduction of use of private sector homes, the further purchase/lease of properties had been conducted in the past year in order to increase the supply of council accommodation.

 

  • Extensive work had been carried out on fire safety, with the installation of sprinklers on all taller council blocks as well as sheltered blocks.

 

  • The department was currently working through the implications of the ‘Hackett Review’, with proposals to be drawn up after consultation.

 

  • There had been reorganisation across council departments which meant the departments now sat across divisions between Adults and Health as well as Place department.

 

Following the presentation the Sub-Committee was given the opportunity to

ask questions on the content of the report and the information provided during the presentation.

 

In response to a Member question about whether the purchase of street properties would help to drive down costs associated with Temporary Accommodation (TA) housing, the Cabinet Member advised that the aim of purchasing the 100 properties was to place people who had been in temporary accommodation. The priority for the department was to increase Council owned properties which would drive down TA costs, as well as provide better security and standards for people approaching the Council as homeless.

 

A Member commented that there was lack of data in the report on other Local Authorities (LA) that utilised Croydon TA which would be useful for the planning of school places and increased use of amenities and health services. The Cabinet Member advised that when families where placed in Croydon, the information was passed on as a duty of care, but this was not always the case for single homeless placements. The Council was working with London Councils to mitigate the use of cross borough placements and encourage more use of TA by host boroughs.

 

It was commented that there had been a significant dip in housing expenditure which had subsequently risen again and it was questioned what the movement in the graphs represented. The Cabinet Member said that the momentum in the graphs represented transfers of costs from one part of the service to another, whilst there may have been a reduction in one area of service, there had also been notable demands in others at different stages. In 2019/20 there had been an increased demand for TA properties which had resulted in the Council attempting to purchase more properties in order to offset costs that would have been spent in the private sector. Increased demand for larger homes had also added to costs.

 

The Impact of Universal Credit (UC) on costs for TA was questioned, as well as the increasing challenges  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4/20

5/20

Axis Responsive Repairs Contract Review pdf icon PDF 317 KB

To receive details of and review the performance of Axis Europe PLC Responsive Repairs Contract.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Responsive Repairs introduced the report and the following was noted:

 

  • The contract with Axis Europe PLC commenced in April 2014 and was current in the sixth year of an initial seven year term.
  • As part of the contract review process, performance, costs, resident feedback, service delivery and risks were all being evaluated. Additionally an ongoing joint review of any housing related contracts that were due for extension or re-procurement was taking place.
  • Contractor reviews took place on a monthly basis with performance reported on a quarterly basis to the Cabinet Member for Homes & Gateway Services.
  • The providers KPI performance was benchmarked against other providers and reviewed on an annual basis.
  • Customer satisfaction with the repairs service had improved.
  • There had been some increase in complaints over the last two years of the contract, but performance on complaints throughout the contract period had been below the challenging targets.
  • Missed appointments had been identified as an area of improvement as part of the review process that was taking place.

 

The Sub-Committee was given the opportunity to ask questions on the content of the report.

 

A Member commented that the 10% figure for follow up inspections appeared to be low and questioned whether this was typical in comparison to other local authorities and whether the information gathered was reliably provided a true reflection of the service. The officer confirmed that to conduct inspections on more than 10% of the 65,000 repairs carried out each year was not feasible with the available resources. The focus of follow up inspections was on chargeable works and larger repairs. 100% of void properties and roofing works were also inspected. It was noted that the 10% of follow up inspections was an increase on previous years.

 

In response to a comment that the figure of 65,000 repairs per year appeared to be high, it was highlighted that this figure had decreased from approximately 72000 in previous years. The focus for contractors was to ensure that works were completed to high standards as it was costly for them to conduct repeat visits.

 

In response to questions on how easily it was for residents to report repairs and waiting times for the completion of works, it was advised that residents were able to log repairs online, via email and also by telephoning the contact centre. There was also an app available which allowed for pictures to be uploaded. The average wait for the completion of a repair was 6 days and for complex work it could be up to 6 weeks. Feedback from residents was that it was important that jobs are not closed out until fully completed and this was continuously fed back to the contractor.

 

A Member commented on the KPI comparison methods used and asked why client by client comparison was used with specific local authorities and housing associations rather than a cross London approach. The officer advised that this method was preferable as they were able to gain access to a range of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5/20

6/20

Brick by Brick Business Plan 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 289 KB

To review the proposed 2020/2021 Business Plan of Brick by Brick.

(Report to follow)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Executive of Brick by Brick presented their business plan, with a summary of the report given, during which the following was noted:

 

  • A working draft of the paper was presented to the Sub-Committee with a number of figures including market analysis which impacted upon forecasting due to be updated prior to presentation of the report at Cabinet.

 

  • Brick by Brick, had been set up to deliver new homes across variety of tenures with a view to returning a profit from development activity which would be returned to the Council on a 100% basis and used to fund other activities in the borough as needed.

 

  • Achievements in 2019/20 included completion of 90 homes across five different sites, 62 of which were reserved for private sales and would achieve a good return despite the current economic climate. There were also 290 homes across 11 sites envisaged to be completed within the next four to six months.

 

  • There were 33 more proposed sites which would deliver between 600-800 homes depending on planning permission.

 

  • The company focus for the 2020/21 business plan was on sustainability, which was different from previous business plans. The company strived to be a leader of the ‘one planet living action plan’ by adopting its principles as well as working to complete and be audited on set priorities.

 

The Sub-Committee was given the opportunity to ask questions on the content of the report.

 

A Member enquired about the financial relationship between the Council and Brick by Brick as the Council was a sole lender with an agreement on borrowing which was made up of 75% debt and 25% equity. The officer explained that the Council was a sole lender to Brick by Brick which was deliberate as it enabled all monies generated to be spent solely in the borough. Brick by Brick would pay a high rate on its debt, the equity element would go into shared capital.

 

It was asked what had prevented the completion of the 414 homes for 2020 as proposed in the 2019/2020 business plan. The officer stated that it had been anticipated that more homes would have been delivered as projected but there had been difficulties with some sites not coming forward as quickly as expected, as a result 90 homes had been delivered with 240 further homes set to complete within the next 4 months.

 

Clarity was sought on how decisions were made to develop one site over another. The officer said that each site went through a decision making process, with detailed site analysis and access taken into consideration.

 

It was further asked what community based consultation and engagement was undertaken following site identification, prior to development. Officers said that public consultation was undertaken where appropriate, individual dialogue took place with the community including discussions with Councillors and Ward Members. The board had evaluated suggested sites for possible development, highlighting any identifiable issues many years prior to the commencement of work.

 

There was concern that often, residents only awareness of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6/20

7/20

Housing Revenue Account pdf icon PDF 219 KB

(To Follow)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance (Finance, Investment and Risk) introduced the report and the following was noted:

 

  • The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) operated as a single entity managed through various divisions. Primarily, Repairs & Maintenance, Financial Planning & Monitoring as well as Tenancy & Caretaking Services.

 

  • Following a four year rent level reduction that was implemented by Central Government policy, as of 1st April this cap was being lifted and LA’s would be able to increase rent levels by CPI plus 1%.

 

  • In 2012, a retention agreement was signed which enabled two thirds of receipt of sales from right to buy schemes to be retained. As a result of the borrowing cap being lifted, the Council had more opportunities to invest in Council homes, which had been included in the Housing Strategy.

 

  • The department operated a 40 year business plan on the budget which was reviewed and updated each year to establish continued financial viability of the ring fenced budget.

 

  • GLA funding was received which was partly utilised on the purchasing of Brick by Brick properties.

 

  • As part of the affordable housing programme, the department explored how to fund additional street property acquisitions. This may be through available right to buy receipts and a proposal would be submitted to Cabinet on options later this year.

 

The Sub-Committee was given the opportunity to ask questions on the content of the report.

 

In response to a Member question on whether Council officers offered help to residents in securing mortgages to purchase their properties, officers said that residents were encouraged to seek independent advice on obtaining a mortgage. The extent of the information given was purely on the right to buy process as the loss of Council homes through right to buy was detrimental to social housing stock.

 

A Member commented on a letter that was sent to the Secretary of State which made allegations on the inappropriate use of the funds received from the GLA. The officer made clear that some of the funding received from the GLA was used to part purchase Brick by Brick properties and the remainder of purchases were through HRA borrowing.

 

It was further asked what was being done to ensure that value for money was received to ensure that the HRA was not overpaying for properties bought. The officer said that as part of their business plan, the asset acquisition team explore all avenues to ensure that purchases were affordable as well as providing value for money. The price agreed for affordable homes was one set price regardless of the size and mix of the property. The officer also agreed to provide a detailed briefing on the impact on HRA of purchasing Brick by Brick properties.

 

It was asked whether the Council could have taken any other steps to improve the process of the transition to paying water rates directly to Thames Water for its tenants. Officers said that the decision around the change was made by Thames Water and not the Housing service. The department conducted publicity, sent  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7/20

8/20

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 153 KB

To note the work programme for the remainder of 2019/20 municipal year.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair confirmed that 17 March 2020 meeting would comprise of two items:

  • Cabinet Member Question Time: Cabinet Member for Transport, Environment & Regeneration – Cllrs Scott and King (1 x report & 1 x presentation)  
  • Place Plan

 

The Sub-Committee NOTED the work programme for the remainder of  2019/2020 municipal year.

9/20

Exclusion of the Press and Public

The following motion is to be moved and seconded where it is proposed to exclude the press and public from the remainder of a meeting:

 

“That, under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act, 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information falling within those paragraphs indicated in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended.”

Minutes:

This was not required