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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 4, Town Hall, Upper Street, N1 2UD. View directions

Contact: Jonathan Moore  020 7527 3308

Items
No. Item

216.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Gary Doolan, Marian Spall and Angela Picknell.

 

Councillor Aysegual Erdogan submitted apologies for lateness.

217.

Declaration of Substitute Members

Minutes:

None.

218.

Declarations of Interests

If you have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest* in an item of business:

§  if it is not yet on the council’s register, you must declare both the existence and details of it at the start of the meeting or when it becomes apparent;

§  you may choose to declare a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest that is already in the register in the interests of openness and transparency. 

In both the above cases, you must leave the room without participating in discussion of the item.

 

If you have a personal interest in an item of business and you intend to speak or vote on the item you must declare both the existence and details of it at the start of the meeting or when it becomes apparent but you may participate in the discussion and vote on the item.

 

*(a)     Employment, etc - Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.

(b) Sponsorship - Any payment or other financial benefit in respect of your expenses in carrying out duties as a member, or of your election; including from a trade union.

(c) Contracts - Any current contract for goods, services or works, between you or your partner (or a body in which one of you has a beneficial interest) and the council.

(d)      Land - Any beneficial interest in land which is within the council’s area.

(e) Licences- Any licence to occupy land in the council’s area for a month or longer.

(f) Corporate tenancies - Any tenancy between the council and a body in which you or your partner have a beneficial interest.

 (g) Securities - Any beneficial interest in securities of a body which has a place of business or land in the council’s area, if the total nominal value of the securities exceeds £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body or of any one class of its issued share capital. 

 

This applies to all members present at the meeting.

 

Minutes:

None.

219.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 148 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

That the minutes of the meeting held on 6 September 2016 be confirmed as a correct record and the Chair be authorised to sign them.

220.

Chair's Report

Minutes:

The Chair advised that representatives of Family Mosaic Housing Association had been invited to present to the Committee under Item B1, RSL Scrutiny, however unfortunately they were not available to attend the meeting. Family Mosaic would be invited to a future meeting.

 

It was advised that Jon Farrant, Head of Tenancy and Estate Services, had been due to give evidence to the Committee under Item B2, Housing Services for Vulnerable People: Witness Evidence, however unfortunately he was unable to attend the meeting. It was noted that Jon Farrant would attend the next meeting.

 

The Chair highlighted recent casework received from Hyde Housing Association tenants. It was commented that residents were anxious about the organisation’s review of community centres, and it was suggested that the organisation should provide all stakeholders with further information about the review.

 

221.

Order of Business

Minutes:

No changes were proposed to the order of business.  

222.

Public Questions

Minutes:

The Chair outlined the procedure for public questions and the filming of meetings.

223.

RSL Scrutiny pdf icon PDF 111 KB

Minutes:

The Committee noted apologies from Family Mosaic Housing Association. The item was deferred to a future meeting.  

224.

Housing Services for Vulnerable People: Witness Evidence pdf icon PDF 147 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a presentation from Cora Nicholls, Housing Options Manager, and Vicky Manser, Principal Re-Housing Manager, on the work of the Housing Needs service in supporting vulnerable people.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         There were around 20,000 households on the housing register, but only around 1,200 properties available to let each year. Around 9,000 households were in housing need, with almost 5,000 applicants in overcrowed housing.

·         The Housing Needs team provided advice to residents on their housing options. Information was available from the council’s website, and also directly from the municipal offices at 222 Upper Street. The service provided ‘floor walkers’ at the municipal officers to assist vulnerable people who may have difficulty accessing the computer terminals.

·         Residents could apply for council housing online, with their application instantly assessed against the council’s allocations scheme. The form was designed to be accessible in different languages and to those needing different text sizes.

·         The council operated a ‘choice based lettings’ scheme in which households were able to bid for properties suitable for their needs. The eight bidders with the highest number of points were invited to view the property. It was advised that vulnerable people, such as those with mobility issues, were able to visit the property for a second time. The council offered a more flexible service to these residents.

·         The Housing Needs service worked in partnership with area housing offices, social services, the Police, and other agencies such as Age UK to discuss vulnerable tenants in order to better understand their particular housing needs.

·         The service had a positive working relationship with the Islington Learning Disabilities Partnership and discussed cases with them monthly. Applicants with a learning disability could qualify for supported housing, or those with a lower level learning disability could be supported in their own home through the KeyRing service. The KeyRing service helped those with learning disabilities to maintain their tenancies by providing floating support. This included helping to develop their independence by providing support with budgeting, repairs, personal safety, and life skills such as cookery. 

·         The Housing Needs service had developed a housing options booklet and tenancy agreement in an easy read format for those who struggled with written English.

·         The service worked with support organisations such as Centre 404 to provide supported housing projects to those with high and complex needs.

·         The Housing Needs service reported a good relationship with both Adult and Children’s Social Services. Vulnerable people’s housing options were discussed with support workers to find the most suitable housing available. Advice surgeries were also held with vulnerable families.

·         Two officers were appointed as GP link workers. It was reported that lots of valuable information was received from GPs which helped vulnerable people to access housing; particularly vulnerable people who were not known to the council.

·         The housing bidding system had been developed with vulnerable people in mind. The website indicated if the property had been adapted or was wheelchair accessible. The website was intended to be easy  ...  view the full minutes text for item 224.

225.

Quarter 1 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 223 KB

Minutes:

The report was introduced by Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, and Sean McLaughlin, Corporate Director of Housing and Adult Social Services.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         This was the first quarterly performance report submitted to the Housing Scrutiny Committee. Corporate performance indicators were previously reported to the Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee, however it had been agreed that quarterly performance should be reported to the appropriate review committee instead.

·         Several affordable housing schemes were behind schedule. As these were being developed privately, the council had very little influence over their progress.

·         Concern was expressed at the increase in homeless acceptances in quarter one, however it was thought that this would decrease slightly in quarter two.

·         Repairs satisfaction was reported to be 94%, which was considered very high.

·         The government’s requirement for the council to sell housing stock would significantly decrease the council’s ability to re-house vulnerable people. It was expected that increasing the use of temporary accommodation would be an unavoidable consequence. The Committee was very concerned by the impact of national housing policy changes. It was noted that the implementation of secondary legislation under the Housing and Planning Act had been delayed.

·         It was clarified that rent arrears had increased to 1.8%, which was only a 0.1% increase, and not by 1.8% as indicated in the report. However, officers were investigating this increase, as 0.1% represented over £100,000 of lost income.

·         It was queried why the implementation of the new repairs ICT system had been delayed until April 2017. In response, it was advised that there had been developmental delays and it was not appropriate to implement a new system over winter, which was the busiest time of year for the repairs service. Difficult conversations had taken place with the supplier and officers thought that the revised implementation date would be met.

·         In response to a query, it was advised that the council did evict families from time to time, however this was a last resort and Children’s Social Care were always involved in decisions where children would be affected. No families had been evicted as a result of the bedroom tax, and evictions often took place following repeated non-payment and refusal of advice and support.

·         The Committee raised concerns with Partners’ repairs performance. It was commented that Partners’ outstanding repairs were not part of the historic backlog, which had been cleared.

·         The council sought to downsize tenants in under-occupied housing where possible. For example, one and two bedroom properties on the Bemerton Estate had recently been earmarked for those looking to downsize. This would increase the availability of family-sized units, however, it was acknowledged that many tenants did not want to downsize from larger properties.

 

RESOLVED:

That the progress against key performance indicators in Quarter 1 be noted.

226.

Scaffolding and Work Platforms Scrutiny Review - 12 month update pdf icon PDF 188 KB

Minutes:

Damian Dempsey, Group Leader – Quantity Surveyors, and Mike Hall, Direct Works Group Leader, presented the report which set out progress in implementing the recommendations of the scaffolding and work platforms review.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         A member commented on scaffolding being used to carry out work at a relatively low height. Officers advised that scaffolding was installed to provide a safe working environment, regardless of height.

·         Following a question about mobile elevating work platforms, it was confirmed that the council owned one vehicle which was used daily. A scissor platform was sometimes hired to carry out pre-construction surveys.

·         Whilst Housing sought to maximise the use of maintenance-free materials, planning permission for installation was not always granted.

·         The council emphasised to its staff and contractors that scaffolding should be removed at the earliest opportunity. A member raised casework related to scaffolding being kept on housing association properties for unreasonably long periods of time. Officers could not comment on the practices of other organisations.

·         It was noted that the roofs of some properties could be accessed from inside the building, however this sometimes required access to be granted by tenants or leaseholders, and this was not always received. 

·         The future of OJEU procurement rules was unknown given the decision to leave the European Union; however it was not expected for procurement rules to be relaxed, as the OJEU rules were strongly supported by the government.

·         The council was working to multi-skill all operatives. Training was taking place at Hackney College, with 120 operatives to be trained over the next few years.

·         The Committee commented on the financial pressures facing the council and emphasised that any saving on the cost of scaffolding would be welcomed.

 

RESOLVED:

That progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Scaffolding and Work Platforms Scrutiny Review be noted.