This report asks the Committee to approve the adoption of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Strategy and action plan (Appendix 1) and to approve the making of an application to the Social Housing Decarbonisation Grant (run by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)) for £3,000,000 to improve SAP ratings of 300 properties to achieve a minimum C Rating.
The Decarbonisation Project Manager advised members that the last weekend had shown and refocused everyone on the importance of climate change and global warming. The council has a zero carbon strategy for its own properties which produces over 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Heating and lighting the housing stock of the council produces 20 times as much carbon. This decarbonisation strategy is about helping achieve zero carbon and low carbon housing within the 2050 timeframe that the government is committed to. The first opportunity to do that is to apply for the social housing development grant which is a match funded by the government. The focus that the council has chosen for its grant application was for fabric improvements to reduce the demand for heating and energy in the homes that the council is able to address promptly and quickly within the timeframe of the grant. The are 300 houses that the council have highlighted it would like to improve. He then reminded members of the recommendation before them in the report.
The vice-chair thanked the Decarbonisation Project Manager for his report and then asked members for their comments and questions.
Clarification was sought regarding paragraph 1.4 of the report where it said ‘our housing stock generates twenty times as much CO2 as the rest of the Council’s estate’. It was confirmed that all of the properties that are included in the 2030 net zero target include, libraries, leisure centres, council buildings and properties that are owned or are run by the council. Those properties produce directly around 400 tonnes of co2 a year. The social housing stock produce 8,000 tonnes of co2 a year.
Discussion was then had regarding the financial implications of the quoted £20,000 per property. Specifically, it was asked what did the HRA bank balance look like, as there had been no update to the committee on this detail. The Interim Head of Housing advised that the council’s operational costs last year was higher than its operational income. The way the council plans to resolve that is to manage our stock more efficiently, increasing the value for money. The work that was documented in the report was a part of this. He also advised that the council needed to balance its investment into things that would reduce responsive costs e.g. if you increase your planned maintenance works, that then has a knock on effect to your responsive repairs work. A rebalancing of the council’s capital expenditure was needed to reduce revenue costs whilst driving efficiencies and improving the. He went on to explain that the council needed to look at other businesses of the same size that have sustainable business models as it should be reflective of these.
It was then asked that as this strategy was to be seen as an investment, what was the expected return on this? The Interim Head of Housing explained that in terms of savings and efficiencies what it was expected to see was to save officer time when executing processes. E.g., when an officer is attending a property visit, they should be able to enter the data results through one time device update, rather than completing several different forms and or spreadsheets.
It was stated by a member that the decarbonisation strategy was still a project that was required to be match funded by any grant. It was expected that this would be £3 million, and this would be a drain on the HRA and inhibit other projects. It was also stated that the rent increase on rents could only be 1% plus CPI and therefore this would not cover the ever increasing spend.
A query was raised regarding the EPC rating for properties and would residents be aware of their own properties rating. It was confirmed that the strategy would focus on those properties with the lowest EPC rating, i.e. they are the most inefficient properties to heat and or light. It was confirmed by the Interim Head of Housing that the council would be as transparent as it could be when selecting the properties that would see improvements. The Decarbonisation strategy project manager also confirmed that residents can request their EPC rating at any time, each property would have its own EPC certificate also.
The Leader of the Council brought the conversation back to the financial aspect and asked was the council clear on what the HRA bank account would look like in April/May 2025? The Interim Head of Housing advised that if the council continued to run at its current operating parameters, then by May 2025 it would have serious challenges with what was left as the balances would be depleted by that time.
It was then asked if that included the payment of £3 million spend for this project. It was confirmed that it was being explored as to how this project could be funded by the HRA, however it was expected that these would be capital projects and would be funded by borrowing. The budget for debt payment is currently showing as underspend and that is where the council sees the opportunity to resolve some of the revenue issues that the council are currently facing. It was then queried if the Civica project had been included in the forecasted HRA balance. it was confirmed that the Civica project was mainly capital funded.
It was asked when the interim HRA report would be received by the committee and it was confirmed that this would be expected towards the end of this financial year or at the stat of the new financial year 23/24.
The Decarbonsisation Strategy Project Manager also confirmed in response to a question asked that the council was not planning on completing works on building blocks during the first phase as this provides additional complexities and as of yet there is no timeframe set in terms of dealing with these types of properties.
The recommendations were then proposed by Cllr Yeates and seconded by Cllr Needs.
1) The adoption of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Strategy and action plan (Appendix 1) (which will be subject to final presentational revisions)
2) Approved officers to make an application to the Social Housing Decarbonisation Grant (run by the Department for Business, Enterprise, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)) for £3,000,000 to improve SAP ratings of 300 properties to achieve a minimum C Rating which will involve match funding of £3,000,000 from within the existing HRA business plan, and to then apply that to the programme of retrofit works over 2023- 2025.