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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 1, Town Hall, Upper Street, N1 2UD. View directions

Contact: Ola Adeoye  020 7527 3044

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors Lukes and Debono.

2.

Declaration of Substitute Members

Minutes:

Councillor Gantly substituted for Councillor Lukes.

3.

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:

There were no declarations of interest.

4.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Minutes:

 

RESOLVED:

That the minutes of the meeting held on 13 March 2018 be confirmed as an accurate record of proceedings and the Chair be authorised to sign them.

5.

Chair's Report

Minutes:

The Chair, Councillor O’Sullivan welcomed everyone and in particular the newly elected councillors to the first meeting of the Housing Scrutiny Committee of the 2018/19 Municipal year.

The Chair informed Members that previous scrutiny review reports on housing related topics would be made accessible as a resource for new members and that he would circulate key website links.

The Chair informed Members that following serious concerns brought to his attention regarding fire safety on the Whitecross Estate, he had agreed to accept and consider this as an urgent item.

 

6.

Order of Business

Minutes:

The Chair advised that the urgent item on the Whitecross Estate would be considered as the first discussion item. 

 

7.

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:

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

8.

URGENT ITEM - FIRE SAFETY ON THE WHITECROSS ESTATE pdf icon PDF 3 MB

Minutes:

Councillor O’Sullivan informed Members that due to the safety concerns on Whitecross Estate, Peabody had sent representatives to the meeting to address and respond to questions from the Committee.

Chief Operating Officer, Ashling Fox, Director of Technical Compliance and Quality, Tara Agarwal, and Group Director of Resident Services, Alison Muir introduced themselves to the Committee.

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

·         Flammable insulation had been identified on Peabody Tower and St Mary’s Tower. Peabody had implemented ‘waking watch’ arrangements, however members were concerned about the conduct of waking watch staff and Peabody’s response to the fire, including communication with residents and the council.

·         Peabody had not informed ward councillors of plans to decant vulnerable residents from their flats and were only made aware of this issue after receiving calls from concerned residents. 

·         Peabody had written to residents to advise on evacuation plans. Members were concerned about the effect of Peabody’s letter on the residents as it would have increased their levels of stress and anxiety especially as the letter was received around the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire. The meeting was also told that residents were worried as Peabody staff had not been briefed on the evacuation plans, especially as enquiries resulted in residents been told to contact either fire officers or their councillors.

·         The Committee was informed that reassurances about the conduct of waking watch staff were provided, however subsequent spot checks undertaken by Councillors Gallagher and Graham revealed that some staff did not know what they were supposed to be doing, were not wearing high vis vests, and did not have any form of identification on them. Members were concerned with the placement of tables and chairs on landings and in stairwells and escape routes, as this would create a trip hazard in the case of any fire outbreak.

·         The Committee was concerned that, despite the fire risk which had been communicated to residents, no attempt had been made by Peabody to remove items of furniture and an unhinged door left abandoned in the building corridors.

·         The Committee heard evidence that the meeting with the residents convened by Peabody could only be described as inadequate and disappointing. The Committee commented that sending out invitation letters should have been backed up with door knocking by Peabody staff and the use of electronic notice boards. It was also worrying that the fire service was not present, as this would have provided some reassurance to residents. It was also concerning that residents were continuing to hold barbecues in the vicinity of the buildings.

·         In response to issues raised above, Ashling Fox, the COO of Peabody acknowledged that the whole issue had not been managed well and apologised on how the initial and subsequent responses had been handled. The COO advised Members that, although not an excuse for the way things were handled, there were issues with the waking watch contractors, and confirmed that training had now been provided, fire drills had been carried out, bulk waste  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

ARRANGEMENTS AND TERMS OF REFERENCE pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the membership, terms of reference and dates of meetings of the Housing Scrutiny Committee for the municipal year 2018/19 be noted.

 

10.

QUARTERLY REVIEW OF HOUSING PERFORMANCE ( Q4 2017/18) pdf icon PDF 121 KB

Minutes:

Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, presented the quarterly performance update.

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

 

·         Members were informed that the Council’s target for downsizing residents has been challenging despite offering financial incentives. Members were advised that the take up for the new scheme built specifically for over 55’s in Kings Square has been disappointing, however the Council would continue reviewing this issue.

·         Members were advised that the target for new affordable homes in 2018/18 remains 466, however as house building principally lies with housing associations and private developers, the Council has limited control on the delivery timescales, however the Council would continue supporting measures to achieve the target.

·         With regards to the First Time Fix target of 85%, Members were advised that the reason for the fall in performance for responding to emergency repairs was due to the high volume of repair request experienced during the poor weather between January and March. In most of the cases the team were dealing with more ‘make safes’ however the Council would be looking at how it will respond to these peaks in the future. The Executive Member for Housing informed Committee that he would bring back to the Committee on specific measures on how to deal with these repairs at a future meeting.

·         Members were informed that its first batches of operatives having completed their multi skill training programme are now being provided further support in the field to practice their new skills which will be of benefit to both the residents and the operatives in the long run as operatives with multi skills could address issues while in a property instead of calling out for a specialist.

·         Councillor Ward informed Members that although there had been no reported glitches with the new IT system, further improvements are to be introduced in the second phase of the project which would allow managers monitor the performance of their staff on a daily basis.

·         Members welcomed the good news that the number of households in nightly booked temporary accommodation had fallen, due to the enormous work of staff and in particular the Trail Blazer Programme which recognises the need to intervene before people become homeless. Councillor Ward welcomed the central government programme but was concerned with the impact when funds are withdrawn in 18 months. Members were told that the Council recognises the need to work with landlords, employers by intervening early on issues such as universal credit, rent plan etc, all measures that will mitigate homelessness. It was noted that a main reason for homelessness was the end of an assured shorthold tenancy.

·         In response to a question of young people trained with multi skills to be involved in repairs especially for elderly tenants, the Service Director , Homes and Communities advised that the Councils’ apprentices placed within the Council’s repair services carry out remedial works such as removal of trip hazards while in a property but are not responsible for repairs of internal doors.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

SCRUTINY TOPICS AND WORK PROGRAMME 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 53 KB

Minutes:

The Committee indicated that it wished to carry out two main reviews, responsive repairs and homelessness.  As part of the review on responsive repairs, the Committee will include issues around communications. 

In addition the Committee would revisit a number of previous scrutiny reviews such as fire safety and consider it in conjunction with the Hackett Review on fire safety as an officer update.

As part of the yearly performance of housing associations, Members agreed to invite both Peabody and Guinness Trust to meetings

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the work plan be agreed, subject to the inclusion of reviews of responsive repairs, homelessness.