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 Wade tendered her apologies for the meeting, as did Head of Housin Stephen Clarke. There were no other apologies. This was NOTED by the Panel.
Newly appointed Executive Director of Housing and Communities, Stephen Gabriel, was introduced to and welcomed by the Panel.
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
The proposed work plan for the Panel’s forthcoming meeting was AGREED.
The Panel is asked to AGREE the notes of the meeting held on 02 September 2021 as an accurate record, having raised any necessary amendments.
The notes of the meeting held on 02 September 2021 were AGREED as an accurate record.
Landlord Services Performance Dashboard
The requested dashboard of landlord services is delayed as a consequence of the QL implementation. It is anticipated to be available for the Panel’s November meeting.
Chair of the Panel, Councillor Linda Smith, updated Panel members regarding the housing performance dashboard. She was working with the Head of Housing to agree its measures, but owing to the issues relating to the implementation of the QL system the data to populate these measures was not currently available. This was NOTED bv the Panel.
The Scrutiny Committee agreed earlier in the year the topics it wished to commission reports on. One of these reports was on the relationship between the Council’s Housing function and Carbon Reduction. Malcolm Peek, Property Services Manager, will be presenting this report.
Also invited to this meeting to contribute are Councillor Diko Blackings, Cabinet Member for Affordable Housing, Housing Security and Housing the Homeless, CouncillorMike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focused Services, Stephen Clarke, Head of Housing. Stephen Gabriel, newly appointed Executive Director of Communities and People will be attending to watch.
The Panel is asked to consider the report, and NOTE it, having AGREED any necessary recommendations to Cabinet arising from it.
**NB This report is to follow and will be issued as a supplement.**
Malcolm Peek, Property Services Manager, presented a Panel-requested report on Housing and the Low Carbon Agenda.
The Council had a target of ensuring 95% of its homes were rated no lower than a C on EPC ratings by 2030. Some government funding was being used to support this, with Local Authority Delivery and Social Housing Decarbonisation Funds being accessed as available. The bulk of the work was progressing, however, without government funding and a budget of £7m was available to 2030 to cover the work required to bring approximately 2500 Council-owned homes up to a C rating. Current focus was on procuring external expert advice on the works required, which would then be profiled into a programme. Surveys were anticipated to be completed by March 2022. Typical solutions would include lighting solutions, internal and external insulation, draft-proofing, solar and installation of heat pumps.
In response to the presentation the Panel raised a number of issues. One key issue discussed was that of engagement with residents, particularly for those who struggle with digital access. Given the potentially radical changes to some tenants’ homes Housing Services were keen to run a full and accessible engagement programme, which had already been planned and budgeted. This would be in addition to the existing work of the Council’s staff dedicated to advising tenants on possible measures to address fuel poverty. The issue of fuel poverty was an important consideration in the approach to housing retrofitting, with a focus on fabric first changes to raise energy efficiency without transferring from gas to electric heating, thereby avoiding the significant increases in fuel costs. Team members on the project were mindful of the complexity involved in ensuring different measures worked together and did not raise other issues such as damp. It was noted by the Panel that changes to properties could have a fundamental impact on the way that tenants live and enjoy their properties, as well as there being a wide variety of possible offerings around finishings, which it would want to see tenants involved with. Tenant involvement in the process would be critical, at both the level of individual homes and representative levels on wider issues. The level of consultation required and the complexity of the works meant it was very difficult to know at the current stage what proportion of the properties improved would be raised to EPC levels beyond a C grading.
The possibility of additional central government funding was explored by the Panel. It was hoped that there would indeed be further central government funding. However, such funding often came with tight criteria in terms of the works and timeframes involved. The Council would be proactive in looking for opportunities to access such funding but its specificity meant that external funding would not the main determinant of the Council’s plans as it would be unlikely to meet the Council’s own targets for energy efficiency.
Disruption for tenants during works was an issue of concern for the Panel. Much of the work, such ... view the full minutes text for item 13.
Part 2 of the Panel’s ongoing consideration of the theme of tenant engagement and empowerment focuses on the proposed changes in central government’s white paper on Social Housing. A presentation will be given by Bill Graves, Landlord Services Manager. Also invited to this meeting to contribute are Councillor Diko Blackings, Cabinet Member for Affordable Housing, Housing Security and Housing the Homeless, Councillor Mike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focused Services, Stephen Clarke, Head of Housing, Simon Warde, Tenant Involvement Manager, Wendy Hind, Tenant Involvement Officer and the tenant ambassadors. Stephen Gabriel, newly appointed Executive Director of Communities and People will be attending to watch.
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. A list of the issues raised previously by the Panel for possible consideration as recommendations is included within the notes of the previous meeting for the relevant item.
Bill Graves, Landlord Services Manager, introduced the Panel-requested update report on the implications of the central government’s Social Housing White Paper.
The Grenfell tragedy had brought to the fore the importance of tenant safety in social housing. To that end, central government had put forward a white paper outlining seven rights of tenants in social housing. Although only a white paper, the clear advice of government was that social landlords should not wait before implementing the proposals. The rights identified were as detailed below:
1) To be safe in your home
The implementation of the changes required would have a number of consequences for the Council. Tenant engagement would need to be increased significantly, the provision of proscribed safety information would be necessary, a named person made personally accountable for health and safety would need to be selected. The additional requirements would have staffing implications, needing to be funded from the Housing Revenue Account. The process for making appointments to many of the necessary roles was already underway.
2) To know how your landlord is performing
The Council would be required to inform every tenant, at least once a year, on its performance.
Proscribed information would focus on compliance with multiple safety measures, the Decent Homes Standard, success in resolving complaints promptly and fairly, management and handling of anti-social behaviour and levels of tenant satisfaction over a number of key areas such as engagement, health and safety, overall condition, repairs handling, management of communal spaces, and the wider neighbourhood. Also included within performance reporting all social landlords would be required to make available information on spending, and be subject to challenge by residents if spending was thought not to be in the right place.
The effects on the Council to comply with the requirements would include providing greater detail over spending, including more work with the tenant ambassadors to explain spending. The Council also wished to provide real-time data on its performance, meaning that costs would be incurred to support this. It was likely that the greater transparency over spending would lead to greater scrutiny over spending within and without the Housing Revenue Account.
3) To have complaints dealt with promptly and fairly
Changes to the Housing Ombudsman’s code and other broader changes would have a number of impacts for the Council. These would include needing to adopt a two stage complaints process for housing complaints, with the Housing Ombudsman’s definition of a complaint. Policies would need to be updated and made available online, including the vexatious complaints policy and reasonable adjustments policy. Two officers to investigate and manage housing complaints would need to be recruited and additional publicity amongst tenants on their right to complain and information on how to do this would be required.
4) To be treated with respect
Many of the changes in this aspect were external to the Council, with a more proactive regulator having greater freedom to make inspections and enforce significant fines and an expectation on providers in breach to self-refer to the ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
Dates of next meetings
Meetings of the Housing and Homelessness Panel are scheduled for:
04 November 2021
02 February 2022
04 April 2022
The Panel should also be aware that it is likely to be invited to participate in the Housing element of the Budget Review Group. The exact date on which this will happen has not been set, but Panel members are asked to note that the likely dates are either 06 or 10 January 2022.
The Panel NOTED the dates of future meetings.