Agenda and minutes

Housing and Community Safety Scrutiny Commission - Monday 21 November 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Ground Floor Meeting Room G02A - 160 Tooley Street, London SE1 2QH. View directions

Contact: Amit Alva  Email:

No. Item



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    To receive any apologies for absence.


    Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Portia Mwangangye and Councillor Barrie Hargrove.


Notification of any items of business which the chair deems urgent

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    In special circumstances, an item of business may be added to an agenda within five clear working days of the meeting.


    There were no items of business which the Chair deemed urgent.


Disclosure of interests and dispensations.

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    Members to declare any interests and dispensations in respect of any item of business to be considered at this meeting.


    Councillor Esme Hicks, Councillor Jane Salmon and Ina Negoita (Co-opted member) disclosed that they are Council Leaseholders.




Fire Commander Interview- London Borough of Southwark

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    To receive a report and interview Verona Clark, Borough Commander for the Southwark Fire Brigade on key Fire Safety Issues listed below:


    • Key fire safety issues across the borough.


    • Support efforts to enhance fire safety, as scrutiny commission members, and also as ward councillors.


    • Updates since last year on figures of buildings in the borough with known safety issues relating to cladding, and/or measures in place to counter potential serious safety hazards. 


    • Updates since last year on the impact of Covid on the service and its effect on response times and/or broader service levels.


    • Fire safety risks posed by empty homes in the borough and mitigating them.


    • Additional areas/information for the commission to note and/or review.


    • The comparison of Bonfire night, fireworks incidents attended this year compared to last few years.

    Supporting documents:


    The commission first received a report from Verona Clark, Borough Commander for the London Fire Brigade in Southwark on the following points.


    ·  Risk areas such as high rises and commercial buildings.

    ·  Key fire safety issues and fire safety work undertaken by engaging with the community

    §  Poor loading and overcharging of e-bikes in residential properties especially communal areas in high rise buildings.

    §  Fire safety team enforcing legislation in shops where counterfeit chargers that are the main cause of fires.

    §  Encouraging business to do fire risk assessments online with the support of the Local Authorities.

    §  Home fire safety visits and Public Relations to encourage people to resolve issues with their recalled white goods such as tumble dryers and washing machines that pose a fire risk.

    §  Poor ventilations in shops where people are sleeping due to tough economic times, this is being handled by the fire brigade enforcement teams, fire safety inspections team and also liaising with the councils fire safety teams.

    ·  Scrutiny commission members and ward councillors to encourage and promote home fire safety visits which constituents and residents can book through telephone, text messages, online through or visiting the local fire station thus providing residents with bespoke fire safety advice.

    ·  Drying of clothes on electric heaters rather than using gas for heating, increasing the fire risk due to exposed elements such as filament tubes.

    ·  Safe smoking outdoors and discouraging charging e-vapes overnight.

    ·  Encouraging use of branded mobile phone, e-scooter and e-bike chargers.

    ·  95 buildings in Southwark with cladding related fire safety issues Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) there are 9 buildings that fall under simultaneous evacuation but are not cladded but do undergo regular checks.

    ·  Minimum of 12 visits a week to high rise commercial buildings.

    ·  Quarterly meetings and joint visits with fire safety department, brigade fire safety teams and council fire safety teams to identify issues and data being fed back to the head office and fire safety teams.

    ·  240 high rise buildings and new developments undergo inspections at every building stage.

    ·  Southwark Fire Brigade has the best response time with targets of 6 minutes for the first instance and 8 minutes for the second instance.

    ·  Backlog of fire safety visits during Covid recovering.

    ·  No existing issues with empty homes with regards to fire safety, alarms triggered would come through directly to fire brigade or reported by public. No life risk thus different approach to empty homes. Arson incidents due to anti-social behaviour are very low.

    ·  Fire stations organising physio sessions for elderly, counselling sessions, community spaces, food banks, clothes and toys for children and coffee mornings.

    ·  Increase in arson proof letter boxes and fire retardant bedding across the borough for vulnerable people and victims in court cases referred by social services.

    ·  No reported increase in fires on bonfire nights due to anti-social behaviour but reporting of potential fireworks issues reported to the police by the fire brigade.

    The commission then asked questions around the following themes.


    ·  Perennial issue of fire risk assessments of businesses.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Cabinet Member Interview - Councillor Darren Merrill, Cabinet Member for Council homes and homelessness

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    Interview with Councillor Darren Merrill including a holistic overview of key strategies and projects under the Cabinet member portfolio for Council Homes and Homelessness. Including the following topics but not limited to


    ·  Housing repairs service including the contact centre service, multiple failures, repeated calls, contractors and an update on the new strategy in development.


    ·  Leaseholder Charges, Value for Money (VFM) for charges and transparency of accounts supported by asset management team.


    ·  Empty homes


    Supporting documents:


    The commission heard from Councillor Merrill on the following points


    ·  Inflation rise of 30% on costs of materials for new builds.

    ·  Rising rate of borrowing affecting the housing market.

    ·  Ensuring that costs of repairs for leaseholders are accurately calculated and repairs completed in a timely manner.

    ·  Improvements in the repairs service involves setup of repairs resident group, repairs hub, hiring of multi trade services that could complete the entire repair work and improving the call centre effectiveness by using video calls.

    The commission then asked questions around the following points of discussion


    ·  Only 50% of stage one complaints being upheld.

    ·  Council communication with leaseholders and estate agents on channelling repair complaints to the correct team within the council.

    ·  Repairs resident group.

    ·  Real time updates for residents on repairs through telematics systems.

    ·  Prevention of minor repairs turning into major repairs.

    ·  Differing repair needs of buildings built decades apart.

    ·  Apprenticeships for trade services.

    Councillor Merrill explained to the commission that repairs resident group would include Southwark Group of Tenants Organisation (SGTO) Chair, Local Housing Forum Chairs and members of the public and it due to bet setup by December 2022.


    The commission then heard from Christine Bramman, Head of Repair and Maintenance that the council do not directly contact letting agents, repairs are managed holistically by trained staff at the repairs contact centre and a repairs improvement program is underway. On only 50 % of complaints being upheld, the commission learned that more than 40% of stage one complaints are a result of residents not reporting the issue on the first occurrence this then gradually leads to major issues later which take longer to resolve, multi skilled operatives have been hired and tasked with resolving stage one complaints and process failures.


    The commission learned that the proposed telematics system is being negotiated and is to be launched soon. Text messages are currently being used to communicate with residents. Some minor repairs have turned to major repairs due to Covid and not being able to access the property and also staff being redirected to delivering food, supplies in the community and only essential repairs being carried out. The backlog of repairs has now recovered. A cohort of 11 apprenticeships have started in September 2022, 5 electricians, 4 plumbers and two multi-skilled traders undergoing training courses.





    The commission then discussed the following points


    ·  Major works prevention in asset management strategy and restrictions in budget.

    ·  Terms of reference of Repairs Residents Group to be discussed at its first meeting as its resident led and reconvening of Local Area Forums to meet.

    ·  Call backs for inadvertently disconnected customers getting through to the call centre after long waiting times this is to be fed back to the contact centre as a customer service improvement measure.

    ·  Customer service training for internal repairs service and contractor code of conduct to be enforced during their interactions with residents.

    ·  Leaseholder charges are to be fair, value for money, calculated accurately and scrutinised rigorously by the major works team.

    ·  Transparency of leaseholder’s  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Housing Allocation Statistics and Overcrowding report

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    To note the report on Housing Allocations Statistics and Overcrowding from Cheryl Russell, Director of Resident Services, Housing and Modernisation and Karen Shaw, Head of Housing Solutions.

    Supporting documents:


    The report was noted by the commission.


Work Programme 2022-2023