Agenda and minutes
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Venue: Remote (Zoom)
Contact: Tom Hudson, Scrutiny Officer email DemocraticServices@oxford.gov.uk
Link: View the link
Substitutes are not allowed.
Councillor Blackings had sent an e mail warning that she would be delayed in arriving. This was NOTED by the Panel. There were no other apologies.
Declarations of interest
Attached is a proposed work plan of topics for consideration for the Panel’s forthcoming meetings. The Panel is asked to AGREE the proposed work plan
Councillor Diko Blackings joined the meeting at the commencement of this item.
It was proposed by the Chair that the Panel consider the Cabinet paper on Small Sites Development Proposals at the November meeting, which was accepted by the Panel.
There was a request for more information regarding the progress of Selective Licensing, which the Scrutiny Officer agreed to follow up on.
Stephen Clarke, Head of Housing, requested that the reports on the Tenant Satisfaction Survey in October and the Housing White Paper in November be switched around, which was accepted.
A presentation by the Empty Homes Officer on their work was also requested, with the Scrutiny Officer to organise a suitable date. This suggestion was accepted.
The Chair also brought to the Panel’s attention that Council had referred work to the Panel around DSS discrimination in lettings. It was agreed that the Scrutiny Officer would pass on to Housing the actions required by the motion which referred the work to the Panel, and would ask for an update report on progress in April 2022.
The work plan was AGREED by the Panel subject to the above changes.
It was also AGREED that the Chair would work with the Head of Housing to develop a performance dashboard, which would be considered as a standing item at each meeting.
The Panel is asked to AGREE the notes of the meeting held on 04 March 2021 as an accurate record, having raised any necessary amendments.
The notes of the meeting held on 04 March 2021 were AGREED as an accurate record.
Attached is a Housing Performance Update report for Q1. The Panel is asked to consider the report, and NOTE it, having AGREED any recommendations to Cabinet arising from it.
Councillor Diko Blackings, Cabinet Member for Affordable Housing, Housing Security and Housing the Homeless, CouncillorMike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focused Services, and Richard Wood, Strategy and Service Development Manager have been invited to present this item.
Richard Wood, Strategy and Service Development Manager, presented a Housing Performance update report to the Panel, taking in the activity of the Housing service area, but also Housing-related service areas.
For the Council’s activities around rough sleeping and homelessness the challenging situation of undertaking its work in a new way, through the pandemic and the ‘everyone in’ policy was noted. Housing’s current focus was on getting those people who had been taken off the streets moved on into longer-term accommodation. The pandemic had brought increased presentations of people as homeless, but with changes such as the end of the eviction ban, the furlough scheme and the recommencement of evictions that number was liable to remain elevated. Despite the challenges, however, securing accommodation was proving successful, with 252 having been moved on to date. Since the publication of the report Canterbury House had been vacated, and attention was being turned to those housed at the YHA. The Council’s work was being supported by a successful bid for RSI funding from central government, which would partially be used for a social lettings pilot to trial enabling access to private lettings from former rough sleepers. Overall, number of rough sleepers was reducing, with 24 recorded at the last count in Q1, down from 62 in 19-20. Other KPIs about temporary accommodation and successful outcomes from homelessness prevention interventions were also being met.
Traditionally the Council’s affordable housing targets were reported on annually. However, owing to the long term work needed to deliver housing developments it was deemed more appropriate to have a four year target instead to drive performance, set at 1200 affordable homes. In the first quarter 49 affordable homes had been delivered, compared to 123 in the entire year prior.
The main focus around the Council’s own housing stock in terms of KPIs was over decarbonisation and retrofitting, with the aim that fewer than 46% of homes would be rated below an EPC rating of C for 21-22. Compared to a baseline of 54%. This is being supported by financial investment from the council, alongside bidding for grant funding from central government, a successful bid for LAD1B fund means work can get underway on 240 properties with the worst performing properties being targeted first.
In response to the presentation the Panel raised a number of questions. Assurances on the steps being taken to ensure harder-to-house rough sleepers were sought as the ‘everyone in’ policy was starting to be wound down. This area was recognised by officers to be a challenge, but the ambition was to make every person leaving temporary accommodation at the YHA an offer of suitable accommodation, which would be supported by funding through both the Next Steps accommodation programme, and the Rough Sleeping accommodation programme. This funding could be used not only to provide accommodation itself, but support to the individuals in their accommodation. Floyds Row would also, once repurposed, be able to temporarily house and support a number of individuals.
Challenge was provided by one of the ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The main Scrutiny Committee has agreed the suggestion put forward by the Chair of the Housing Panel, Councillor Linda Smith, that the Panel should, throughout the year examine different aspects of one important topic – tenant engagement and empowerment. This first report is an introduction to the ways in which the Council engages its tenants.
It is expected that the findings will be written up at the end of the year, including any recommendations. The Panel is asked therefore to NOTE the report and AGREE any recommendations it wishes to make. Should it wish to make an urgent recommendation to Cabinet, ie prior to the report being written at the end of the year, it is also at liberty to do so.
Councillor Diko Blackings, Cabinet Member for Affordable Housing, Housing Security and Housing the Homeless, Councillor Mike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focused Services, Simon Warde, Tenant Involvement Manager, and representatives from the different avenues and fora of tenant engagement have been invited to attend and present this item.
Simon Warde, Tenant Involvement Manager, gave a presentation to introduce members of the Panel to the different fora and avenues through which the Council engages with its tenants and leaseholders. He was supported by representatives of these fora, the tenant ambassadors.
The Tenant Involvement Team is comprised of four permanent staff, and an apprentice to join imminently, funded from the Housing Revenue Account. It exists to ensure compliance with the Regulator’s ‘Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard’ through tenant involvement in the development, monitoring and scrutiny of Council tenant and leasholder services. In 2016 the team was awarded accreditation by the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) and was awarded Team of the Year. The accreditation which was re-awarded in 2020.
Alongside its more targeted engagement with the tenant ambassadors, the team provides a number of avenues for engaging with tenants more broadly: The Tenants In Touch magazine, facebook and tenant involvement web pages.
The Tenant Involvement team is not the sole source of tenant involvement, with consultation being undertaken centrally through the consultation team. The Tenancy Management and Communities Team also engage with tenants on a regular basis for consultations. It has been found that a mix of online and telephone yields the best balance between cost and accessibility. Postal surveys were no longer cost effective and therefore were used only on request, but door to door surveys could be, particularly in plugging gaps in responses via other methods.
Looking ahead, the Tenant Involvement team’s work would primarily be focused on preparing for the upcoming Housing white paper, where within every strand there is a significant element pertaining to tenant involvement. Other key areas would be responding to the requirements of the Housing Ombudsman regarding complaints processes, and issues arising from the Building Safety Bill. Two other areas of focus were setting up in-depth assessors, whose job it will be to monitor satisfaction levels, and identify and solve areas of dissatisfaction, and to establish a Housing Development Working Group to involve tenants in the pre-planning stages of development sites and post-completion inspections to ensure they are of satisfactory standard.
In the future, it was hoped that tenants might also be able to become involved in performance monitoring around issues such as gas safety, void turnaround times, and incidences and themes around antisocial behaviour. Also, creating a Tenant and Leaseholder Board – a body attended by senior officers and fed into by tenant ambassadors – would create a direct communication link between tenants and senior decision-makers.
The Tenant Ambassadors presented their areas of involvement with the Council.
Brenda Walton and Geno Humphrey spoke about their involvement with contract tender evaluations. A number of ambassadors have been trained by the Council to look at new contracts, as well as renewal tenders. When tender documentation is received by the Council it is passed on to participating tenant ambassadors, who score each one against the same matrix as Council officers. The only difference is that – at the request of the tenant ambassadors – ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Dates of next meetings
Meetings of the Housing and Homelessness Panel are scheduled for:
06 October 2021
04 November 2021
02 February 2022
04 April 2022
The Panel NOTED the dates of future meetings and the Panel’s continuance in a virtual format.