Venue: The link to the Zoom meeting is below. Enter meeting ID 963 0080 2662 when prompted. If you prefer to join the meeting by phone please dial 0330 088 5830.
Contact: Ola Adeoye 020 7527 3044
Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Councillor Hamitouche and Dean Donaghey – Co-opted Member
Declaration of Substitute Members
There were no declarations of substitute members
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.
There were no declarations of interest
That the minutes of the meeting held on 23 June 2020 be confirmed as an accurate record of proceedings and the Chair be authorised to sign them.
The Chair stated that he was pleased to report that some Partner properties will be returning to the Council in April 2022 and he congratulated the Executive Member Housing for his work in this regard
Order of Business
The Chair stated that the order of business would be as per the agenda, and that the item on Communal Heating Braithwaite House would be dealt with in conjunction with the Performance report from the Executive Member Housing
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.
The Chair outlined the procedure for Public questions
Mini-Scrutiny Review ( Private Rented Sector) witnesses evidence - Safer Renting
Roz Spencer and Bob Reeves Lewis, Safer Renting, made a presentation to the Committee, copy interleaved
During consideration the following main points were made –
· Safer renting an overview – TRO tenancy advocacy provider, committed to change through research, Cambridge House support and
Sister housing law centre. 4 years operational experience in 7 London Boroughs. Funded by borough contracts and charitable core funding. Independent, social enterprise organisation
· Strength in depth – services can include litigation friend defending against landlord claims, representation at Tribunals for civil redress, homelessness prevention, out of court settlements, client borough portal for online referrals to case management, GDPR compliant and ASQ accreditation
· 4.5 full time caseworkers
· Current developments – COVID 19, rise in illegal evictions and harassment, HMO’s and Public Health, safer renting training by the MET
· What local authorities can do better – adopt better data sharing to target and detect unlicensed HMO’s, work with the MET to enforce the Protection of Eviction Act and actively pursue prosecution of offenders
· Employ a TRO service
· Barriers to greater effectiveness – austerity has stripped Local Authorities of expertise in enforcement and tenancy rights, funding for enforcement needs to be ‘pump primed’, no duty on Police to enforce Prevention of Eviction Act. Carried out work with the Police in Waltham Forest and as a result over 1000 officers had been trained and since the training the Police had followed correct procedures
· Weak tradition of multi-agency working, regulatory arrangements not fit for purpose
· How could safer renting benefit – provide private tenants with access to their rights, savings on tenant advice, customisable access to expertise and capacity and ability to contribute to policy change through research
· It was noted that it was felt that new Government legislation to increase the number of storeys on properties without planning permission would exacerbate problems with rogue landlords
· Noted that the sentencing for illegal evictions is less than shoplifting
· Noted that landlords tended to fit in number of categories which were easily recognisable
· In response to a question about tracking landlords down it was stated that this could be difficult if the owner was clever in concealing his/her tracks, and the proliferation of letting agents made this more difficult. Noted that consideration was being given by the Government to hold agents responsible for offences being committed in relation to properties where applicable
· Reference was made to other enforcement powers under the Housing Act 2004, however a multi-agency approach is needed. Trading Standards in Islington had successfully made a prosecution resulting in a fine of £11000
· Councillor Ward referred to the Trailblazers scheme whereby Islington talked to landlords in an attempt to resolve problems before the eviction process starts and this had been successful in many instances
· It was stated that Islington Trading Standards have attempted to work on a multi-agency basis, and that two Police officers had joined the team, and that consideration was being given with Housing to look at letting agents
· In response to a question, it was stated that the ... view the full minutes text for item 181.
Scrutiny Review ( Major Works) - Draft Recommendations - To follow
The Chair stated that the draft recommendations were before the Committee for consideration
Members were of the view that the draft recommendations needed additional work, and that further consideration should be given to this with a view to reporting with draft recommendations to the Committee at the September meeting
It was noted that a number of major works had been delayed, in particular on the Andover and Girdlestone Estates, and this was not acceptable. Whilst there had been a need to change contractors, this should be planned in a more acceptable manner so that handover of contractors is as seamless as possible. Members were informed that delays had been experienced by the termination of the contract with Breyers, and there had been a need to employ new contractors
That the draft recommendations be noted and, following discussion between the Chair and Members of the Committee, further more detailed recommendations be submitted to a future meeting of the Committee for consideration
Steve Nash, Housing Directorate, was present for discussion of this item and outlined the response to the Scrutiny recommendations
During consideration of the report the following main points were made –
· The Council new build programme was again now active on all sites following the COVID 19 lockdown ending
· Consultation and the planning process is also back on schedule
· The Chair enquired whether consideration had been given to approaching Housing Associations in neighbouring boroughs, or TMO/TMC’s who often had considerable funding reserves in relation to the purchase of sites for housing in the borough. It was added that the borough needed genuinely affordable rents, and that private housing developers are only considered in order that the scheme can maximise the number of social housing units available
· Members were informed that generally the Council tried to work with existing Housing Associations in the borough who had proved successful in delivering schemes, however consideration could be given to the Chair’s suggestion in relation to Housing Associations in neighbouring boroughs referred to above
The Chair thanked Steve Nash for attending
Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member Housing and Maxine Holdsworth, Corporate Director of Housing, were present for discussion of this item
Residents of Braithwaite and Councillor Graham were also present to discuss the Communal Heating issues at Braithwaite House
During discussion the following main points were made –
· It was noted that the Quarter 4 performance figures were before the outbreak of COVID 19, and therefore this would affect the next Performance information
· There were 24 affordable new homes completed this quarter
· The end of year new build target is slightly behind schedule, due to delays with sub-contractors and COVID
· No new planning permissions were granted for new Council housing, and this is slightly behind target
· The net growth of Council housing this quarter was 14, and this is below target
· 33 severely over-crowded households were assisted to relieve over-crowding, giving an end year total of 144, an improvement on last year
· 152 under-occupying households have been supported to downsize, slightly below target
· Repairs performance has continued to improve from 87.4% to 87.7%
· Partners repairs – these tend to be more complex major repairs and at present 17% of major works have been open for more than three months. Partners PFI 2 were to come back ‘in house’ from April 2022
· Rent Income Collection – Rent arrears have continued to increase from 3.6% at end December 2019 to 3.9% at the end of March. This is likely to increase further as a result of COVID 19
· Welcomed that the Parkhurst Road site would now be 50% genuinely affordable housing on site
· Reduce homelessness – the number of households accepted as homeless is better than the profiled target, and at 348 is above the equivalent position last year. Increase in numbers of households in temporary accommodation, however those in nightly-booked accommodation has reduced. The Council had purchased additional accommodation, and pursuing the transition into permanent accommodation
· Residents of Braithwaite House and Councillor Graham outlined the unacceptable position with regard to the Communal Heating and other problems with hot water, thermostat for central heating, closing of windows, means of escape etc. many of which had first been raised in 2015, and still no action had been taken and that this was unacceptable. It was noted that a petition had been presented outlining the problems to the Council, and that it was unacceptable that there had been no heating on the estate and the Council had been slowing in responding to complaints. In addition, residents had requested a referendum takes place with regard to the heating situation, however it should be noted that this could result in increased costs if heating is left on for longer periods. The Director of Housing undertook to get accurate heating charging information for residents in time for such consultation in order that an informed decision can be made
· Councillor Ward expressed his deep regret to residents at the situation, and stated that he would undertake to ensure that the problems were resolved. Councillor Ward stated that he would ... view the full minutes text for item 184.
The Chair stated that he felt that there should be consideration given to carrying out scrutiny reviews into Partners and Communal Heating in the next municipal year, and will consult with Members thereon
That the draft work programme be noted, subject to further consultation with Members on the proposed scrutiny reviews referred to above