Agenda and draft minutes

Housing & Customer Services Working Group
Tuesday 21st July 2020 6.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1 - Pink Room. View directions

Contact: Carley Lavender (Ext 37547) 

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of interest

            Members and Officers are reminded to make any declarations of pecuniary, personal and/or prejudicial interests that they may have in relation to items on this agenda and are reminded that they should re-declare their interest before consideration of the item or as soon as the interest becomes apparent.

 

            Members and officer should make their declaration by stating :

a) the application they have the interest in

b) whether it is a pecuniary, personal and/or prejudicial

c) the nature of the interest

d) if it is a prejudicial or pecuniary interest, whether they will be exercising their right to speak to the application

 

Minutes:

          No declarations of interest were made.

 

2.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 151 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of the Housing & Customer Services Working Group held on 6 February 2020.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 6 February 2020 were approved as a correct record by the Working Group and will be signed by the Chairman as soon as practicably possible.

 

3.

Start Times

The Working Group are required to agree the start times for its meetings for this municipal year 2020 – 2021.

Minutes:

The Working Group

 

RESOLVED

 

That the start times of meetings for the remainder of 2019/20 be 6.00 p.m.

 

4.

Customer Services Annual Update pdf icon PDF 249 KB

This report considers the operation of the services over the last financial year ending March 2020 and identifies emerging trends of operation comparing this with the operation over the previous 5 years. 

 

Members are requested to note this update.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Customer Services Manager introduced her report and gave the Working Group an overview of its detail for the last financial year.  Arun Direct the Council’s telephony service sees the team dealing with 10 different types of enquiries, for face to face customers the team provide a general enquiries service at both the Littlehampton Civic Office and Bognor Town Hall receptions as well as providing support for housing enquiries. Work is currently taking place on the customer access strategy alongside the digital strategy as it is a key part of improving the Councils services for customers.

 

During the last year a total number of calls dealt with was 169,463 which was decrease on the previous year’s figures. This was assumed to be due to the improvements in the online self-serve services. A total of 37,620 customers visited reception services at both the Civic Centre and Bognor Regis Town Hall. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic the offices were closed, only allowing service for any person presenting as homeless. A review was now being completed of future access to services provided as a result of the closure. A high number of visits to the website showed that this method is by which, most customers access the Council services. In particular last year saw the Election pages have a significant increase from 43,187 in 2018/19 to 74,642 in 2019/20. This was due to the local Elections in May 2019 and the General Election in December 2019.

         

The Chairman thanked the team for the report and expressed thanks to the entire customer services teams for all their continued hard work.

 

The Working Group noted the report update.

 

5.

Fire Policy & Management Plan pdf icon PDF 224 KB

This report seeks approval for the adoption of the Fire Safety Policy and Management Plan in respect of Council housing stock.

 

Housing and Customer Services Working Group is asked to recommend to Cabinet:

 

·      the adoption of the Fire Safety Policy 2020

·      the adoption of the Fire Safety Management Plan 2020

·       give delegated authority to the Group Head of Residential Services in conjunction with the Cabinet Member for Residential Services to make minor changes to the policy and plan

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Repairs and Maintenance Manager introduced his report to the Working Group. It was explained that a Fire Safety Policy and Management Plan had been compiled that would enable the Council to comply with regulations and mange fire risk for all its properties and it clearly sets out the Council’s responsibilities and the responsibilities of any Council contractors.

 

          There were questions raised regarding the ‘Stay Put’ policy and whether this was the best advice. It was explained that the strategy for escape was driven by the Fire risk assessments that had been completed which comprised of several different factors. It was also explained that there are Fire Doors in place to help stop/delay the spread of Fire.

 

The Working Group recommend to Cabinet that;

 

1)    the Fire Safety Policy 2020 be adopted

2)    the Fire Safety Management Plan 2020 be adopted

3)    delegated authority be given to the Group Head of Residential Services in conjunction with the Cabinet Member for Residential Services to make minor changes to the policy and plan

 

6.

Void Lettable Standard 2020 pdf icon PDF 228 KB

This report seeks approval for the adoption of the Void Lettable Standard in respect of Council housing stock.

 

Housing and Customer Services Working Group is asked to recommend to Cabinet:

 

·      The adoption of the Void Lettable Standard 2020

·       Give delegated authority to the Group Head of Residential Services in conjunction with the Cabinet Member for Residential Services to make minor changes to the standard

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Repairs and Maintenance Manger introduced his report to the Working Group. It was explained that the standard enables the Council to comply with health and safety and security requirements, it provides clarity to contractors on the expected performance from them and provides value for money.

 

The Working Group recommend to Cabinet that;

 

1)    the Void Lettable Standard 2020 be adopted

2)    delegated authority be given to the Group Head of Residential Services in conjunction with the Cabinet Member for Residential Services to make minor changes to the standard

 

7.

Health & Safety Update pdf icon PDF 225 KB

This report sets out progress being made in respect of health and safety in Council owned homes.

 

Members are requested to note this update.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Group Head of Residential Services introduced her report to the Working Group. She explained that the update set out the progress being made against in respect of health and safety compliance.

Members will remember that in 2018 it was determined by the regulator that the Council could not demonstrate that it could meet its statutory duties. An improvement plan was implemented, and highlighted four major themes that needed attention;

 

1)    Systems – systematic approach to health and safety

2)    Policy and procedures

3)    Data – is it robust

4)    Performance monitoring

 

For the last 18 months the Council had been providing monthly updates to the regulator and it will continue to do so. In respect of the progress that had been made, you see from the report that the Council is making significant progress to ensure that we are on the road to full compliance, from implementation of a new centralised data system to enable improved reporting, to the ongoing restructure of the housing service, additionally the Council had now mobilised contracts across all 7 disciplines in respect of Health and Safety regulations.

 

          The Working Group asked several questions in relation to when it would be expected that the regulator would deem the Council as compliant and therefore no need to report to them so frequently. It was explained that currently the expectation based on the current progress made and the independent review suggest that it would be August 2021, the Council would be in a position to sign off with the regulator.

          There was also concern raised in relation to any special provisions to be made for properties with multiple occupation/sheltered housing schemes and the communal areas that were closed due to Covid-19 pandemic and Government restrictions that were put in place. It was explained that the plan now, in line with the easing of Government restrictions was that these facilities were being phased back in.

 

The Working Group congratulated the Group Head of Residential Services for her team’s dedication and hard work particularly throughout this pandemic.

 

          The Working Group noted the report update.

 

 

8.

Report back from Cabinet/Full Council

On 9 March 2020 Cabinet reviewed the recommendations put forward by the Working Group in its last meeting held on 6 February 2020.

 

The first recommendation was at Minute 12 [Asbestos Policy and Management Plan] which would ensure that the Council was able to meet the regulations and requirements set out in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. 

 

The Cabinet

 

            RESOLVED - That

 

(1)   The Asbestos Policy 2020 be adopted;

(2)   The Asbestos Management Plan be adopted;

 

(3)   Delegated authority be given to the Group Head of Residential Services in conjunction with the Cabinet Member for Residential Services to make minor changes to the Policy and Plan.

 

The next set of recommendations were at Minute 13 [Tenancy & Lettings Policy] where it had been explained that the Policy presented had been an amalgamation of the previous Tenancy Policy 2012 and Introductory Tenancy Policy 2016.  The main driver of the introduction of flexible fixed term tenancies had been to improve better use of housing stock. 

 

              The Cabinet

 

                        RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        The Tenancy and Lettings Policy April 2020 be adopted;

 

(2)            All current flexible tenancies be converted to secure lifetime tenancies from April 2020;

 

(3)            Delegated authority be given to the Group Head of Residential Services to make minor changes to the Policy.

             

              The next set of recommendations were at Minute 14 [Pets Policy] where approval was sought to adopt a Pets Policy in respect of the management of the Council’s tenancies.

 

              The Cabinet

 

                        RESOLVED – That

 

(1)            The Pets Policy April 2020 be adopted; and

 

(2)            Delegated authority be given to the Group Head of Residential Services in conjunction with the Cabinet Member for Residential Services to make minor changes to the Policy.

 

The next recommendations were at Minute 15 [Empty Homes Update] which sought approval to adopt an updated Enforced Sale Procedure and use of existing funds.  Councillor Stanley provided a brief update on the work that had been undertaken in bringing empty homes back into use as a result of the Empty Homes Strategy which had been adopted by Cabinet in 2018 and he applauded the work of the Council’s Empty Homes Officer who had just secured the Empty Homes Practitioner of the Year Award.  

 

The Cabinet

 

            RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        The updated Enforced Sale Procedure be noted; and

(2)            Delegated authority be given to the Group Head of Technical Services to make changes to the end Enforced Sale Procedure, with a review to take place by the end of 2022; and

(3)            Approval of the use of existing revenue funds identified below for Empty Homes Assistance Programme with any unspent funds to be earmarked at the end of the financial year for:

(a)   £66k currently earmarked for Empty Homes

(b)  Unspent receipts from discretionary housing grants repayments (current balance £20k)

(c)  Unspent receipts up to £44k from disability facilities grant repayments.

 

Finally, Cabinet was alerted to the last set of recommendations at Minute 16 [Energy Efficiency Strategy]. 

 

The Cabinet

 

            RESOLVED

 

That the Energy Efficiency and Fuel Poverty Strategy  ...  view the full agenda text for item 8.

Minutes:

The Chairman referred Members to the Agenda sheet for this item, and asked Members to note the recommendations put forward by the Working Group, in its last meeting on 6 February 2020 to the Cabinet. At the Cabinet meeting on 9 March 2020 these were all approved.

 

9.

Work Programme 2020/2021 pdf icon PDF 19 KB

To agree the work programme for the Working Group for 2020/21.

Minutes:

          The Group Head of Neighbourhood Services presented the Work Programme for 2019/20 to members.

 

          The Working Group

 

RECOMMEND TO FULL COUNCIL

 

That the Housing & Customer Services Working Group Work Programme for 2019/20 be approved.