Agenda and draft minutes

Housing and Environment Scrutiny Commission
Wednesday 17 October 2018 7.00 pm

Venue: Ground Floor Meeting Room G01A - 160 Tooley Street, London SE1 2QH. View directions

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

2.

Notification of any items of business which the Chair deems urgent.

3.

Disclosure of interests and dispensations.

4.

Commission work-plan

    Two documents are attached:

     

    ·  Draft work-plan;

     

    ·  Draft scoping document for the proposed review on Community Energy.

    Supporting documents:

    Minutes:

    Community Energy 

     

    The chair introduced the planned scope on Community Energy and invited feedback. The following points were agreed:

     

    ·  Contact SE24 to flag up the roundtable

    ·  Prepare questions for the  roundtable

    ·  Invite written contributions in advance of the meeting with a deadline

    ·  Invite SGTO & housing associations and tenants groups.

    ·  Look at Local Authority best practice (Lambeth and Lewisham - maybe Islington)

    ·  Set a date for the roundtable, after consultation with officers on the option paper in development

    ·  Inform committee members of the date with as much advance notice as possible

     

    Workplan

     

    Committee members indicated it would be useful for scrutiny to examine progress on new council home delivery and government proposals on borrowing limits. The chair of this committee will discuss this with the OSC chair, to decide the best forum to address this and inform members before the next meeting.

     

    A report looking at comparative performance data on Housing repairs; now the service has been brought in-house (from 1 October) would be useful, once available.

     

    The Resident Involvement review will come to the committee at an appropriate time.

5.

Empty Homes

    A report addressing empty properties in Southwark is attached, along with the draft scoping document for this proposed review.

     

    Officers will present the enclosed report.

    Supporting documents:

    Minutes:

    The chair invited the officers to introduce themselves: 

     

    ·  Paul Langford, Director of Resident Services, Housing and Modernisation,

    ·  Cheryl Russell, Area Manager, Housing and Modernisation,

    ·  Keith Kiernan, Specialist Services Contract Manager,

    ·  Michelle Williams, Project Officer.

     

    Officers presented the report circulated with the papers and the chair invited members to comment and ask questions.

     

    The following issues were raised on council empty homes:

     

    Clarification was sought on council empty homes, with reference to paragraph 2 in the report.  Officers updated the committee with the most recent figures:

     

    ·  307 due to refurbishment decisions awaiting

    ·  846 Aylesbury awaiting demolition

    ·  27 properties awaiting decisions re disposal if they meet that criteria

    ·  144 active voids being turn around

     

    Cllr Hamish McCallum referred to numbers supplied by an officer from the exchequer department in a letter he had received recently (enclosed with the minutes).  He asked for clarification about these figures and how they relate to the report figures and those submitted to CLG, using a national formula. He noted that the letter indicted that Southwark as a Local Authority with one of the highest numbers of empty homes.  Members requested clarity on this.

     

    Officers were asked how many residents are on the waiting list, length of waiting time and homes available.  The committee was informed that this is approximately 10,500. Waiting time depends on what band; people on band 4 have no hope, whereas higher bands will receive offers. There are approximately 20 homes now (on the day of the meeting) with an estimated 144 available this week.

     

    Members referred to concerns about houses left empty for 6 - 24 months. Officers acknowledged that there have been problems, however now voids are turning around much faster. Sometimes there are tricky issues; maybe damp or the house could be up for disposal. Officers were asked if prospective tenants could do this work as many are willing .Officers explained that the authority has a letting standard and the council do not allow tenants to do major refurbishment because of health and safety . The housing service does, however, encourage tenants to do minor repairs.

     

    Officers said that waits can be to do with other issues; there can be adaptations, resident may wish to wait. Officers said that they had solved many technical issues around contractor performance and access to electrical power, which had delayed turnaround previously.

     

    Members asked about the process for disposal and if are there are grey areas. Officers explained that properties that become available are viewed first by surveyors. If significant refurbishment is required a property may be referred to a specialist team, and then go to a review panel to decide if the scale of investment is justified.  Previously there was a threshold figure of about 50K which would have led to property disposal, however property decisions are now more contextualised and there have been instances where properties requiring investment of 70-80K to be re-let have been invested in to retain social housing. In other cases disposal is deemed sensible; if this raises significant  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Cabinet member interview preparation

    The Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be interviewing cabinet, and deputy cabinet, members. This item is to collate questions and themes to be put to the relevant member.

    Minutes:

    It was agreed that scrutiny officers would provide dates for relevant interviews and suggested questions would be provided via email.

7.

Discussion of any other open items as notified at the start of the meeting.

8.

Part B - Closed Business

9.

Discussion of any closed items as notified at the start of the meeting and accepted by the Chair as Urgent.

10.

Distribution List