The Head of Finance (Finance, Investment and Risk) introduced the report and the following was noted:
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 out letter well in advance of the changes with contact details of officers for further information, ran surgeries in sheltered accommodation blocks and supported tenants as best as possible. It was further commented by a Member that there were issues in communication with vulnerable residents that their rent bill was being reduced as a result of the changes.
A Member asked how the Council prioritised property maintenance against the money placed in reserves for fire safety. Officers said that stock condition surveys were conducted and reviewed regularly as well as repairs data which enable prioritisation. It was highlighted that Council’s homes continued to meet the decent homes standards.
At the conclusion of this item the Chair thanked the officers for their attendance at the meeting and their engagement with the Sub - Committee and questions.
Information request by the Sub-Committee
In reaching its recommendations, the Sub-Committee came to the following Conclusions:
The Sub-Committee resolved to recommend to the Cabinet Member for Homes and Gateway Services that: