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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

322.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Spall and Doolan. Apologies for lateness were received from Councillor Gantly.

323.

Declaration of Substitute Members

Minutes:

None.

324.

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.

325.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 148 KB

Minutes:

RESOLVED:
That the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 16 November 2017 be confirmed as a correct record and the Chair be authorised to sign them.

 

326.

Chair's Report

Minutes:

The Chair commented that, although the Committee’s review of Fire Safety was concluding, the Committee would continue to consider fire safety matters and relevant issues arising from the Grenfell Tower inquiries as they arose.

 

The Chair confirmed the Committee’s intention to continue to review the work of Housing Associations operating in the borough. It was noted that housing association mergers, such as the proposed merger between Genesis Housing and Notting Hill Housing, may have an impact on the services received by housing association tenants. The Chair also commented on the importance of maximising the amount of genuinely affordable social housing in new developments, and ensuring that those properties were designed and built to high standards.

 

327.

Order of Business

Minutes:

No changes were proposed to the order of business.

328.

Public Questions

For members of the public to ask questions relating to any subject on the meeting agenda under Procedure Rule 70.5. Alternatively, the Chair may opt to accept questions from the public during the discussion on each agenda item.

 

Minutes:

None.

329.

Fire Safety Scrutiny Review: Draft Recommendations pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Minutes:

The Chair introduced the draft recommendations of the Fire Safety scrutiny review. The Chair circulated a sprinkler head unit to those in attendance and emphasised the benefits of sprinkler systems.

 

It was agreed to amend recommendation 2, to encompass the ‘Following Grenfell’ review commenced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

 

The Committee agreed an additional recommendation that the Director of Housing Needs and Strategy, following her return from secondment to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, should author a report to the Committee on her experiences and any learning points from her work for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Grenfell Tower Response Team.

 

Councillor Russell noted that the London Fire Brigade was recommending that landlords should retrofit sprinklers in all high rise housing blocks over 18 metres in height, and queried the Committee’s definition of ‘high rise housing blocks’ in recommendation 10. In response, it was advised that recommendation 10 related to housing blocks over six storeys in height, which was approximately 18 metres. It was commented that this would be explained in the scrutiny report.

 

Councillor Russell noted recommendation 14 related to new build projects, and queried if the council’s design and build standards were sufficient. In response, it was advised that the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety was expected to make recommendations on building standards, and the Committee was to carry out a separate review of the council’s new build programme.

 

Councillor Russell commented that recommendation 3, which supported the London Fire Brigade’s ‘Stay Put’ policy, was only effective if compartmentation was successful. It was queried if the council was actively checking the compartmentation of its housing stock. In response, the Executive Member for Housing and Development advised that compartmentation checks were underway and any faults identified would be duly rectified.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the draft recommendations be approved, subject to the following amendments:

(i)            That recommendation 2 be amended to read: ‘Following the conclusions of the Grenfell Tower inquiry, the review of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, a report should be submitted to the Housing Scrutiny Committee detailing what actions the council will be taking in response to the recommendations.’

(ii)           An additional recommendation to read: ‘The Director of Housing Needs and Strategy should author a report to the Housing Scrutiny Committee detailing her experiences and any learning points from her secondments to the Grenfell Response Team and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.’

 

330.

The Council's New Build Programme Mini-Review: SID and Witness Evidence pdf icon PDF 169 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(i)            Draft Scrutiny Initiation Document (SID)

 

The Committee considered the draft SID set out in the agenda pack.

 

It was requested that the eighth objective of the review be amended to compare the council’s approach to housing associations, as well as other local authorities. 

 

It was requested that the scope of the review be amended to include:

·         Design standards in regards to entrance and exit routes in both high rise and low rise properties

·         Environmental standards in regards to the toxicity of paint

·         The checks and balances related to decision-making on design and build choices, including decisions on the use of materials such as cladding

·         The average building costs of new housing schemes

·         How housing revenue account surplus is spent, and if any funds are allocated to new build projects.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the scrutiny initiation document be agreed, subject to the following amendments:

(a)  the eighth objective be amended to read ‘The compare the council’s approach to new build to another London borough and housing associations’.

(b)  the following points be added to the scope of the review:

·         Design standards in regards to entrance and exit routes in both high rise and low rise properties

·         Environmental standards in regards to the toxicity of paint

·         The checks and balances related to decision-making on design and build choices, including decisions on the use of materials such as cladding

·         The average building costs of new housing schemes

·         How housing revenue account surplus is spent, and if any funds are allocated to new build projects.

 

(ii)           Witness Evidence

 

Stephen Nash, New Homes and Development Programme Manager, presented to the Committee on the council’s new build programme.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         There were two New Homes and Development Programme Managers. These were not technical building management roles, but the officers were responsible for the overall development of the council’s new build schemes.

·         The objective of the New Build service was to maximise the amount of social rented housing in the borough. The council’s new build schemes also contained private housing, the sale of which helped to fund the development of social rented housing. 

·         The council’s new build programme did not create any ‘profit’. Occasionally a new build scheme would achieve a surplus if rising property values resulted in private units achieving a higher than expected sale price. Any surplus was reinvested in developing new social rented housing.

·         The type of units developed by the council was informed by the needs of residents on the housing waiting list. As a result, the council was developing a high proportion of two-bed, four-person units as a means of reducing overcrowding. The council was also developing a number of three and four bed units.

·         The new build team was also developing a small amount of supported housing for vulnerable people, as well as community infrastructure such as community centres. The team was involved in the development of the new Cat and Mouse Library.

·         There were five project managers working underneath the programme managers.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 330.

331.

Responsive Repairs Scrutiny 2015/16 - 12 Month Report Back pdf icon PDF 252 KB

Minutes:

Matt West, Head of Repairs and Maintenance, introduced the report which provided an update on the Committee’s review of responsive repairs.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         The Committee welcomed progress on the multi-skilling of operatives. It was reported that agreements had been made with trade unions and some staff were very keen to broaden their skills. It was also noted that the multi-skill training was being rolled out to other services.

·         The new repairs ICT system had been launched with minimal disruption to the service.

·         Changes to the service’s working culture were progressing well. Operatives were being empowered to make decisions to achieve a first time fix, rather than leave a repair incomplete and requiring follow-up works.

·         It was noted that opportunities for joint working with the London Borough of Camden were limited, however officers were continuing to review if joint purchasing would achieve financial savings.

·         Officers were continuing to network with housing colleagues across London to share best practice. It was commented that other London local authorities were keen to learn from Islington’s experience of in-sourcing the repairs service.

·         It was commented that residents and private sector organisations may be interested in accessing the council’s multi-skill training, and it was suggested that this could be offered as an income generation opportunity. In response, it was advised that the council was limited by the small size of its training facility, however this would be explored.

·         It was suggested that the Repairs service could generate income by offering services to leaseholders and private tenants. Although this was a long-term ambition of the service, it was commented that further work was required before the service traded commercially. It was not feasible to offer a commercial service if it would have a detrimental impact on the core service provided to council tenants. Any commercial service would need ICT development, a pilot, and market testing before being rolled out.

·         Following a question from Dr Brian Potter of the Islington Leaseholders Association, it was advised that the repairs service used the National Housing Federation Schedule of Rates for most works. It was advised that the schedule was not publicly available, however a licence could be purchased from M3 Housing Ltd.

 

The Committee thanked Matt West for his attendance.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the progress made against the recommendations be noted.

332.

Quarterly Review of Housing Performance (Q2 2017/18) pdf icon PDF 188 KB

Minutes:

Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, introduced the quarterly performance report.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         The number of affordable new council and housing association homes built was below target, however it was expected that delays to completing new build schemes would be overcome shortly.

·         The number of under-occupied households downsizing was below target. It was thought that the government’s proposed changes to fixed term tenancies had discouraged tenants from downsizing. It was emphasised that the council’s policy was that tenants should not be penalised for downsizing.

·         Whilst Partners’ day to day repairs satisfaction was on target, members of the Committee expressed their scepticism about Partners’ performance on more complex repairs. The Committee also commented on Partners’ resident scrutiny arrangements and rent arrears. It was intended to scrutinise Partners’ performance at a forthcoming meeting.

·         The Committee requested a copy of Partners’ asset management plan.

·         The Committee welcomed that the council was achieving its objective to reduce homelessness. The borough’s homeless acceptance rate was at its lowest since September 1998. Further work was underway to address the causes of homelessness, which included domestic violence, and the ending of private sector tenancies.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the progress to the end of quarter 2 against key performance indicators be noted.

333.

Review of Work Plan pdf icon PDF 121 KB

Minutes:

Noted.