Agenda and draft minutes

Scrutiny Homes Sub-Committee - Tuesday, 16th April, 2024 6.30 pm

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

Contact: Klaudia Petecka  Email: klaudia.petecka@croydon.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

35/24

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 172 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 29 January 2024 as an accurate record.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on the 29 January 2024 were approved as an accurate record.

36/24

Disclosures of Interest

Members are invited to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) and other registrable and non-registrable interests they may have in relation to any item(s) of business on today’s agenda.

Minutes:

There were no disclosures of interest made at the meeting.

37/24

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 was no urgent business for the consideration of the Homes Sub-Committee at this meeting.

38/24

Period 9 Financial Performance Report - Housing pdf icon PDF 176 KB

The Sub-Committee is provided with summarised information from the latest Financial Performance Monitoring report (Period 9), with a view to considering whether it is reassured about the delivery of the 2023-24 General Fund, Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and the Capital Programme.

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee considered a report set out on pages 23 to 32 of the agenda, which provided the Council’s financial performance as at Period 9 (December 2023) for the Housing Directorate (General Fund, Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and the Capital Programme).

 

Orlagh Guarnori, Head of Strategic Finance, introduced the report. She highlighted that at period 9, the expectation for the General Fund was to break even against the budget of £23.9 million. Nonetheless, she noted that there was a crisis within the London housing market, which was creating significant demand for services. In response to this situation, officers prepared best- and worst-case scenarios for emergency and temporary accommodation, estimating an end-of-year overspend of approximately £4 million for 2023-24. For the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) in 2023-24, a £12 million overspend was predicted, primarily due to £8.6 million in responsive repairs and an additional £3.4 million for disrepair and legal costs.

 

·       Susmita Sen – Corporate Director of Housing

·       Orlagh Guarnori – Finance Manager

·       Beatrice Cingtho-Taylor - Director of Housing, Homelessness Prevention & Accommodation

·       Sue Hanlon – Director of Assets

·       Lara Ashley – Housing Transformation Lead

·       Simon James – Change Manager

The first question from the Sub-Committee concerned the timeliness of the report and why a more up-to-date report was not provided. The officers explained that this period was recently presented to the Cabinet, and they were still working on calculating the year-end figures.

 

The next question asked whether officers anticipated any significant changes to the budget between period 9 and year-end. The officers responded that their forecasts were expected to be accurate, as a large proportion of the required investments and overspend on repairs were identified last year. A supplementary question addressed achieving the savings targets by the end of 2023-24. The officers assured that the anticipated savings were embedded in the forecast, and they still expected to meet these targets.

 

The Sub-Committee then inquired about changes to accommodation arrangements when an asylum seeker receives the right to remain and its impact on Council’s finances. The officers explained that once asylum seekers receive the right to remain, housing responsibility shifts from the Home Office to a local authority. This transition impacts the Council financially, but it has been closely working with the Home Office at the pre-decision stage to minimise the impact. The officers noted that they predominantly worked with families, but many asylum seekers in Croydon arrived alone in the UK. Since it was challenging for individuals to afford accommodation, they are signposted to agencies offering financial support to minimise the risk of rough sleeping. The Sub-Committee further questioned the financial impact. The officers explained that while it was initially identified as a financial and demand risk, the Council had developed effective control and management mechanisms to minimise the risk and financial impact. They assured the Sub-Committee that the risk, although currently small, was being continuously monitored and reassessed.

 

The Sub-Committee then asked about the number of people being granted the right to remain. The officers responded that they have access  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38/24

39/24

Culture Change in Housing Update pdf icon PDF 292 KB

The Homes Sub-Committee is asked to receive a presentation providing an update on Culture Change in the Housing department.

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee considered a report set out on pages 33 to 42 of the agenda, which provided an update on Culture Change in Housing Directorate.

 

The report was introduced by Lara Ashley, Housing Transformation Lead, who summarised the progress made and detailed the key priorities and future plans. She noted that the initial conditions for cultural transformation were quite challenging, which significantly influenced the timeline for implementing the culture change. She estimated that satisfactory results could be expected within three to five years across the directorate. Following the presentation, Councillor Hale underscored the importance of including all staff members in the transformation journey. She also encouraged the Sub-Committee to contribute ideas and suggestions to help ensure that the housing services are delivered in a respectful and empathetic manner.

 

·       Cllr Lynne Hale – Cabinet Member for Homes

·       Susmita Sen – Corporate Director of Housing

·       Orlagh Guarnori – Finance Manager

·       Beatrice Cingtho-Taylor - Director of Housing, Homelessness Prevention & Accommodation

·       Sue Hanlon – Director of Assets

·       Lara Ashley – Housing Transformation Lead

·       Simon James – Change Manager

The Chair then opened the floor for the Sub-Committee to ask questions. The initial inquiry was about how the Council ensured that the culture change work was extended to the Council’s contractors. The officers explained that while the primary focus was on their staff, the Council played a crucial role in selecting contractors who aligned with the desired values and approach towards working with residents. They highlighted that residents were significantly involved in the procurement process. Furthermore, the officers emphasised the importance of monitoring KPIs to ensure that contractors delivered services in the agreed manner and with due respect. They also noted the seriousness with which complaints against contractors were handled and mentioned the possibility of offering customer service training to contractors, provided it was financially feasible. Following this, the Sub-Committee asked whether it would be possible to include a specific section on culture in the procurement process. The officers confirmed that monitoring elements such as the politeness and courtesy of contractors and the speed with which they resolved issues were already incorporated into the process, although these aspects were not explicitly labelled as 'culture'.

 

The Sub-Committee's next question referred to the recording and monitoring of calls in the contact centre. The officers confirmed that calls were indeed recorded and monitored within the repairs contact centre. They further emphasised that action was taken when behaviour deviated from the set standard. Officers noted the importance of clearly defining behaviours and standards, and then monitoring adherence to these. They highlighted that implementing monitoring and disciplinary frameworks required time and needed to be introduced gradually. Further queries were raised regarding whether calls between contractors and residents were recorded, and if the Council had access to these recordings. The officers explained that they currently did not have the facilities to record interactions between the Council’s contractors and residents but mentioned that exploring this possibility could be considered. Despite not having access to recordings, the officers reassured the Sub-Committee that they  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39/24

40/24

Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Strategy 2024-2029 pdf icon PDF 78 KB

The Homes Sub-Committee has asked to review the Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Strategy 2024-2029, with a view to considering whether there are any concerns that should be raised or recommendations that should be made, before the report is considered at Cabinet on 24 April 2024, followed by Full Council.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee considered a report set out on pages 43 to 116 of the agenda, which introduced the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2024-2029.  As well as setting out the statutory requirement to produce a 5-year plan, the report sets out the methodology used in its development as well as setting out a summary report of the process used to consult residents and partners and achieve a consensus for the key themes identified in the strategies priorities.

 

Susmita Sen, Corporate Director of Housing, and Simon James, Change Manager, introduced the report, highlighting it as a key strategic document and a significant step forward. They explained the consultation process used to develop the strategy and summarised the key findings. Councillor Lynne Hale, the Cabinet Member for Housing, stressed the importance of this strategy and its impact on the entire Borough.

 

·       Cllr Lynne Hale – Cabinet Member for Homes

·       Susmita Sen – Corporate Director of Housing

·       Orlagh Guarnori – Finance Manager

·       Beatrice Cingtho-Taylor - Director of Housing, Homelessness Prevention & Accommodation

·       Sue Hanlon – Director of Assets

·       Lara Ashley – Housing Transformation Lead

·       Simon James – Change Manager

Then the Chair opened the opportunity to ask questions, initially focussing on the consultation and user experience. The first question considered how the strategy reflected how the service was operating under the new operating structure. The officers responded that the purpose of the Homelessness Strategy was to provide a direction for the directorate. It was also explained by the officers that the Homelessness Strategy was a statutory document, and the basis of the restructure was based on meeting those statutory requirements. It was further mentioned that the previous structure was not focused on prevention which was one of the main statutory requirements, and changes to the structure had to be made before the Strategy was developed.

 

Subsequently, the Sub-Committee asked whether there were any unexpected findings from the consultation, and if so, how they were implemented into the strategy. The officers explained that there were mixed opinions on rough sleeping – part of the respondents wanted the Council to provide more support to homeless residents and part of them would like the Council to focus on tackling anti-social behaviour related to homelessness.

 

The next question asked by the Sub-Committee asked the officers to reflect on the consultation and explain what could had been done to increase the number of people who engaged in the consultation. The officers explained that when compared to other London Boroughs, the turnout was relatively good. It was also added by the officers that people were also asked about homelessness-related matters during the engagement for the development of the Housing Strategy. Then, the Sub-Committee further inquired about what had been done to engage with young people. The officers acknowledged that this would need to be improved in upcoming consultations. The officers mentioned that they worked with community partners to engage with young people in the Borough. It was also highlighted that officers had been working with Children’s Services to improve the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40/24

41/24

Work Programme 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 79 KB

The Sub-Committee is asked to:

 

1.         Note the work programme for 2023-24, as set out in Appendix 1 of the report.

 

2.         Consider what items Members would like to see included on the 2024-25 Work Programme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee noted the report.