Greenwich Council

Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 4 - Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich SE18 6PW. View directions

Contact: Daniel Wilkinson  Email: daniel.wilkinson@royalgreenwich.gov.uk or tel: 020 8921 5102

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence from Members of the Panel.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Linda Bird and Bill Freeman.

2.

Urgent Business

The Chair to announce any items of urgent business circulated separately from the main agenda.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

3.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 35 KB

Members to declare any personal and financial interests in items on the agenda.  Attention is drawn to the Council’s Constitution; the Council’s Code of Conduct and associated advice.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved –

 

That the list of Councillors’ memberships as Council appointed representatives on outside bodies, joint committees and school governing bodies is noted.

4.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Members of the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel are requested to confirm as an accurate record the Minutes of the meeting held on 12 October 2017.

 

No motion or discussion may take place upon the Minutes except as to their accuracy, and any question on this point will be determined by a majority of the Members of the body attending who were present when the matter in question was decided.  Once confirmed, with or without amendment, the person presiding will sign the Minutes.

Minutes:

Resolved -

 

That the minutes of the meeting of the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel held on 12 October 2017 be agreed and signed as a true and accurate record.

 

5.

Affordable Housing in the Royal Borough of Greenwich - Update report following 2016 Housing and Anti-poverty Scrutiny Panel Review pdf icon PDF 416 KB

To receive an update to the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel following the 2016 Review of Affordable Housing

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Regeneration and Delivery Manager. He circulated some additional figures in relation to Table 2 of the report.

 

In response to questions from the Panel the Regeneration and Delivery Manager replied that

·        The forthcoming Housing Strategy was where the approach to the affordable housing options would be set out in more detail.

·        Registered Providers were increasingly focusing on building more homes for sale (either ‘intermediate’ or ‘private’) to enable them to cross-subsidise the delivery of new homes for rent (this approach has become more prevalent as affordable housing grant regimes have changed). The Council was looking at whether Right to Buy Receipts could be used to lower the average rental levels in Registered Provider properties.

·        Three sites had been transferred, and three more were to be transferred, to Meridian Home Start. There would be an ongoing review and evaluation of the success of the delivery of the project; if successful, then it could be assumed that there might be opportunities for more sites and more funding to become available.

·        The Council at present effectively had no headroom with regard to the Housing Revenue Account. As stated in the Government’s Budget there was now the potential for bespoke deals between the Government and local authorities to deliver social housing; Officers would be contacting the Department for Communities and Local Government to see what opportunities were available for the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

·        With regard to “offsite manufactured housing”, delivery at scale potentially could mean properties being available at a reduced rent in that if there was less cost in a scheme then decisions regarding increased affordable provision could be considered

·        ‘blended rent’ referred to the average rent across different bedroom sizes.

 

Further information to be provided to the Panel regarding the ‘pipeline of sites’ and its relation to the delivery of affordable housing

Action: DH&SC/DRES

 

Timescales for the specialist team set up to undertake inspections of high-risk residential properties, and the number of grants given to bring properties up to standard, to be circulated.

Action: DH&SC

 

 

The Panel noted that the quality of some new builds nation-wide had been criticised, and the concern was that in the drive to meet ambitious targets some builds might not be of the highest quality. The Assistant Director Planning and Building Control (Regeneration Enterprise and Skills) commented that there was a known skills shortage in the construction industry, so an increased demand would increase that shortage. The Assistant Director suggested if developers used local authorities’ building control inspectors maybe quality would increase.

 

The Panel questioned whether it was appropriate that “applicants with household incomes up to £90,000” were one of the three target groups for affordable housing as it effectively delivered expensive houses but at a discount to people who would normally never receive a subsidy. The Development Officer - Strategy & Partnerships said they had tried to restrict income bands previously, but there was constant policy pressure that it should come up to £90,000, and if it were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Fire Safety within the housing stock of the Royal Borough of Greenwich pdf icon PDF 82 KB

To note the statutory obligations of the Royal Borough and the Fire Safety arrangements in place including the protocols relating to assessments and improvements to the Housing Stock

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Planned Works Manager. He clarified the legal obligations of the local authority. He explained that the ‘stay put’ policy was at the direction of the Fire Brigade. He detailed what the fire risk assessments included, and the timescales for the assessments. He highlighted the fire safety improvements that the Royal Borough had undertaken. He drew the Panel’s attention to the new Keystone software and the Fire Risk Assessment reports it would produce.

 

In response to questions from the Panel about public queries, the Planned Works Manager said there had been a noticeable increase in enquiries following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. It was felt that some media reports had led to unnecessary alarm. The FAQs attached at Appendix 1 of the report had gone through many versions, and was considered to answer a lot of the questions that Officers would otherwise have received.

 

Information to be circulated on how many hits the website with the FAQs had received.

Actions: DH&SC

 

In response to questions from the Panel about risk matters, the Planned Works Manager explained there was no difference in the process for considering buildings over 6 stories and those under, just a difference in the time period for the review of the fire risk assessment because they were considered low risk; however, if a low rise block had a complicated design then they would be reviewed as frequently as a high rise because they would be considered high risk. The Planned Works Manager clarified that doors were fitted with a closing device, if they were problematic for say elderly or disabled tenants then that was matter that would could be considered by the housing disability team. It was noted that a lot of closing devices were tampered with. In sheltered accommodation blocks they had electromagnetic closing devices which were linked to a communal alarm system had gave no resistance till that alarm went off. The Planned Works Manager stated that hoarders were engaged with when they were brought to the authority’s attention, which was usually when they were in sheltered accommodation; likewise, they engaged with heavy smokers and advice was given to them. The Planned Works Manager indicated that while PAT testing could be conducted during a review it would be costly to do so on every item and would only be relevant for that particular moment as new or replacement goods could be brought in immediately following the review.

 

In response to other questions from the Panel, the Planned Works Manager stated there were 4 Officers in the Fire Safety Team. There was a pressure on section budgets but fire risk was a priority.

 

There was a discussion as to why two Fire Risk Assessment reports were to be produced, a summary for the public, and a full internal report.

 

The Planned Works Manager advised that they did not want to alarm people as they might not understand the terminology. He stressed that the message that needed to be got across was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Quarter 2 Performance Reporting - Housing pdf icon PDF 142 KB

To note the performance indicators for Housing

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Policy & Performance Manager.

 

In response to questions from the Panel, the Policy & Performance Manager replied that the Housing Strategy was at a draft stage, and it was expected that it would be shown to the Panel. She confirmed that Right to Buy Receipts were being used to buy properties for use as temporary accommodation.

 

The Panel requested that, information on what percentage of those on low income paying rent get discretionary payment, which had been previously requested, be provided. 

Action: DHSC

 

Resolved –

 

That the performance indicators for the Housing element of the Housing and Safer Communities Directorate be noted

 

8.

Update on the Review of Tenant Engagement pdf icon PDF 91 KB

To note the progress and developments that the Housing Service has made in taking forward the recommendations following the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel’s Review of Tenant Engagement.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by the National Management Trainee (Engagement Project Officer - Tenancy Services).

 

In response to questions from the Panel the National Management Trainee (Engagement Project Officer - Tenancy Services) replied that positive feedback had been received about the first issue of Talk Housing. She explained that tenants were sent a quarterly newsletter; the newsletter featured adverts seeking new housing representatives. The on-going aim is to engage currently underrepresented groups through digital means. Benchmarking of other councils will take place as part of this.

 

Information on whether consideration had been given to housing panels having budgets to spend to be circulated.

Action: DH&SC

 

The Panel requested that copies of Talk Housing be circulated to Members.

Action: DH&SC

 

Resolved –

 

That the progress and developments that the Housing Service has made, in taking forward the recommendations, following the Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel’s Review of Tenant Engagement be noted

 

9.

Commissioning Future Reports - Specification of Requirements pdf icon PDF 40 KB

To note the items that are scheduled to be presented at the next meeting.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was requested that the relevant housing report should state progress on the social housing options.

 

Resolved  -

 

That the items that are scheduled to be presented at the next Housing and Anti-Poverty Scrutiny Panel be noted.