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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

281.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Doolan.

282.

Declaration of Substitute Members

Minutes:

None.

283.

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.

284.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 164 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 20 June 2017 be confirmed as a correct record and the Chair be authorised to sign them.

 

285.

Chair's Report

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed Dean Donaghey, who had been appointed as a resident observer at the 29 June meeting of the Council. The Chair commented that Mr Donaghey had technical expertise in the building trade and would be an asset to the Committee.

 

286.

Order of Business

Minutes:

No changes were proposed to the order of business.

287.

Public Questions

Minutes:

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

288.

Fire Safety Scrutiny Review - SID and Witness Evidence pdf icon PDF 175 KB

Minutes:

The Committee considered the Scrutiny Initiation Document and received witness evidence from Damian Dempsey, Group Leader – Quantity Surveyors, and Stuart Fuller, Construction, Fire, and Gas Safety Manager.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

 

·         The council’s fire safety works were informed by guidance issued by the Local Government Association following the major fire incidents at Lakanal House in 2009 and Shirley Towers in 2010.

·         Fire safety issues were considered regularly by the Homes and Estates Safety Board, which included representation from housing services and the London Fire Brigade. The Board was independently chaired by the Director of Housing Services at Oxford City Council to provide external oversight.

·         One major aspect of the fire safety improvement works carried out in recent years was the upgrading of existing entrance doors and the installation of certified fire safe doors to each property. Islington Council was responsible for upgrading the doors to tenanted properties, whereas leaseholders were responsible for fitting such doors to their own properties. Fire safe doors were fitted with a self-closing mechanism which helped to contain fires.

·         It was explained that self-closing doors could operate either through self-closing hinges or an overhead device. Doors with self-closing hinges were more aesthetically pleasing than overhead devices, which officers commented could make a property feel ‘institutional’. However, the council preferred to install doors with overhead closing devices as they were more effective than self-closing hinges.

·         Since the Grenfell Tower fire the council had taken a stronger stance on leaseholders who had not yet installed a self-closing door which complied with regulations. The council was contacting leaseholders advising that they needed to either fit their own door or opt-in to the council’s door-fitting scheme within seven days, otherwise the council would seek a court injunction requiring them to fit a compliant door.

·         Officers commented that the Grenfell Tower fire would very likely result in regulatory change, and the council would ensure that it was fully compliant with any new regulations or guidance.

·         Islington Council had three full time fire safety risk assessors. Each housing block was assessed every three years and its level of fire risk rated as either Tolerable, Moderate, or Substantial. The results of this fire risk assessment fed into the capital programme.

·         The council was currently evaluating tenders for the installation of emergency lighting and inter-linked hardwired heat and smoke alarms in street properties and mansion blocks. It was explained that Partners for Improvement in Islington was not responsible for these works as they were outside the scope of the street properties management contract.

·         A member queried if fitting inter-linked heat and smoke alarms was sufficient to ensure the safety of residents in street properties and mansion blocks. Officers advised that the alarms would give residents early warning in the event of a fire and would assist in the prompt evacuation of a property. A member suggested that an early warning may not offer a sufficient level of safety to a vulnerable tenant with mobility issues. Officers commented that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 288.

289.

The Effectiveness of Housing Services Communications Scrutiny Review - SID and Introduction pdf icon PDF 169 KB

Minutes:

Lynn Stratton, Deputy Head of Communications and Change, introduced the Scrutiny Initiation Document.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         The Housing Service was a large service which had to communicate several different messages to residents. It was important to communicate the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

·         The council’s resident review groups had previously reviewed communications matters. It was commented that the findings of these reviews could be fed into the committee’s review.

·         The Committee suggested that agreeing a Code of Communications among the council’s housing services, Partners, and contractors would be a method of ensuring that communication with residents was of a consistently high quality.

·         The council had been working to develop its online housing services, which included the repairs reporting system. The council’s website had also been redesigned in 2016 and it now met high standards of accessibility.

·         It was suggested that witness evidence could take the form of joint workshops with officers to review complaints, and receiving feedback from focus groups or resident forums.

·         A member commented that residents often assigned greater importance to printed communications as opposed to emails, and acknowledged the council’s work to develop and improve online services. It was asked if there were any services which would not be appropriate or effective to provide online. Officers noted that no decision had been taken on if particular services could not be provided online, but it was decided that some key information should be available in hard copy. For example, recent communications relating to fire safety following the Grenfell Tower fire had been printed and delivered to each property due to its importance. It was suggested that websites were particularly useful in signposting to other services.

·         A member commented that although it was possible to report anti-social behaviour online, there was no feedback system to communicate what was being done in response to these reports.

·         The digital notice boards installed on estates had been well received, and it was thought that these could be developed further by including more localised content. It was suggested that residents’ associations could be consulted on the information they wanted these screens to display.

·         The Committee queried how repairs reported online were processed, and if this resulted in a quicker response than reporting via telephone. 

·         A member commented that housing services were unlikely to receive feedback from residents who could not speak English, and asked how the council knew that its housing services were accessible to all. In response it was advised that the council did make a number of publications available in multiple languages, and telephone translation services were available on request. A member suggested that many residents did not know that translation services were available.

·         A review by the resident Service Review Group found that if one person in a household could speak English they would often translate for their families. This usually involved younger people translating for their parents.

·         It was requested that the findings of relevant reviews carried out  ...  view the full minutes text for item 289.

290.

Review of Work Programme pdf icon PDF 71 KB

Minutes:

The Committee indicated that an additional meeting may be required to consider how the council works with Housing Associations.