Agenda and minutes

Venue: Civic Centre, Gravesend, Kent

Contact: Committee Section 

Items
No. Item

39.

Apologies

Minutes:

An apology of absence was received from Cllr Lee Croxton.

40.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 18 January 2018 were signed by the Chair.

 

41.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

 

42.

Call ins

Items called in from the Cabinet meeting of 5 February 2018.

 

(Please ensure you have access to the Cabinet agenda for 5 February 2018, previously circulated to Members).

 

Minutes:

No items were called into the Committee.

 

43.

Housing Repairs Topic Review (Part 2) - 12 Month Update pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Minutes:

Members of the Overview Scrutiny Committee were presented with an update on progress and success in relation to the recommendations made by the Overview Scrutiny Committee following the Housing Repairs Topic Review (Part 2).

 

In February 2017, the Overview Scrutiny Committee selected Housing Repairs for a topic review (Part 2) which focused on:

 

  • A review of the total amount spent on repairs and maintenance and the capital improvement works to the council’s housing stock

 

  • A review of the cyclical programmes that the council has in place with regards to roofs, kitchens, bathrooms, boilers etc, to establish whether the council is replacing these items more frequently than is necessary, or more frequently relative to others

 

The Service Manager (Operations) explained that significant progress had been made on achieving the recommendations listed on page 11 at 1.3 of the report, with a forecasted future savings of £550K and elaborated on them:

 

Recommendation 1 - The historical pay arrangements made it difficult to justify expanding our in-house operation. However now the terms and conditions of the workforce have been rationalised, work is underway to embed new processes and procedures to ensure a consistent and professional approach to our service. In tandem with this, work types and demands are being analysed to identify the amount of resources required as well as identifying any up-skilling of staff that is needed to reduce the reliance on contractors.

 

Recommendation 2 - Details of the improvements made in respect of each of the Overview Scrutiny recommendations are contained within this report.

 

Recommendation 3 - The regular Housing Liaison Meeting is still ongoing and proves to be a good forum to discuss any internal issues. Due to its success an officer sub group has been set up to focus specifically on Responsive Repairs & Maintenance. A shadowing programme has also been implemented and members of the Repairs Administration team, Housing Officers and Housing Income Officers have had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of each other’s work which has helped increase knowledge and build closer working relationships. Members of the Repairs Administration team are also studying for their Chartered Institute of Housing qualification which has increased their knowledge of both housing legislation and tenancy management. Service Manager (Operations) is undertaking a qualification with Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) to increase knowledge on housing policy, law and professional practice which will lead to CIH Chartered Member Status.

 

Recommendation 4 - A training programme for Housing Officers has been complied and has started to be implemented. Recently staff from both Housing and Repairs undertook Social Housing Mould Tutor Training which focused on influencing behaviour change in tenants to help prevent/control mould. The training received excellent feedback from all teams and represents a good starting point for the training programme. Housing has also undertaken training on the Repairs system Oneserve and Housing Officers have started to use the system for any mutual exchange visits, evictions and pre termination inspections. This not only allows us to collect information on a property that is  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.

44.

Scrutiny Topic Review report on the reduction in staff numbers and the impact on staff. pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To present Members with the Topic Review report for the reduction in staff numbers and impact on staff topic review for approval and subsequent submission to Cabinet.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were presented with the Topic Review report for the reduction in staff numbers and impact on staff topic review for approval and subsequent submission to Cabinet.

 

The Director (Communities) stated that in July 2017, the Overview Scrutiny Committee selected the subject of Reduction in staff numbers and impact on staff for a topic review. The terms of reference for the reviewfocused on:

 

  • Review the council’s most recent report in respect of the Investors in People (IIP) Accreditation scheme (this takes account of staff feedback in a number of areas) and the ways in which staff are able to engage with the council.

 

  • Review and analyse the sickness statistics for the council as a whole. Information will be provided to detail the levels of sickness and also the breakdown of sickness types/periods across the council.

 

  • Review the council’s performance framework (this is the framework by which team meetings, one-to-one’s etc are undertaken to assist in the management of all staffing issues).

 

  • Discuss with the trade union Branch Secretary, any potential issues relating to staffing capacity or sickness that have been raised (all information will be anonymised where necessary).

 

  • Discuss and agree any potential recommendations coming out of the discussions of the group for consideration by the Cabinet.

 

The draft report for the Reduction in staff numbers and impact on staff review is attached at appendix two to the report and sets out five recommendations for consideration by Cabinet:

 

  1. Ensure that the actions identified in the IIP Internal Assessors report to Management Team are implemented

 

  1. Explore the development of a training tool/buddy system to assist new and newly promoted Managers in undertaking their managerial responsibilities.

 

  1. Develop a staff briefing on stress to outline the key drivers for stress but also, the support mechanisms that are in place.

 

  1. Ensure that regular 1-2-1 meetings are held with all staff (as appropriate) to ensure staff have the opportunity to raise concerns with their managers.

 

  1. Ensure that regular communication with all staff continues to take place across the organisation.

 

The Director (Communities) went through pages 28-32 in intrinsic detail regarding the relevant work that had been completed for each of the five recommendations. Upon questions and comments received by Members, the Director (Communities) advised that:

 

Recommendations 1 & 2 

 

  • All the managers within GBC are trained effectively and are constantly being developed to ensure they achieve their maximum potential.  This could be through achieving a higher position within the council or at another organisation.  There are many trainee posts at Gravesham and indeed the Director (Corporate Services) and Assistant Director (Corporate Services) are products of trainee positions
  • The internal IIP assessors are from a variety of departments across the Council.  There are no senior managers as part of this team and a range of officers are involved including a HGV Driver.  These officers have been fully trained to complete the IIP interviews. Staff that are interviewed as part of the assessment process are chosen at random.
  • The Director (Communities) stressed that the needs and concerns  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44.

45.

Partnership Review – Housing Associations pdf icon PDF 75 KB

To provide Members of the Overview Scrutiny Committee with additional detail and background information regarding the Housing Associations partnership for review.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members of the Overview Scrutiny Committee were provided with additional detail and background information regarding the Housing Associations partnership for review.

 

At the meeting of the Overview Scrutiny Committee on 17 September 2015, a programme of activities for the Committee for the next three and a half years was agreed.

 

One of the key work streams agreed was for Members of the committee to undertake a review of one partnership per year. Members identified three partnerships as follows:

 

  • Gravesham Gateway (review undertaken in April 2016)
  • Thames Gateway Kent Partnership
  • Housing Association Partnership

 

The report focuses on information regarding the Housing Associations Partnership and Appendix two provides more detailed information detailed across six sections:

 

  • Background to the partnership
  • Partnership objectives
  • Partnership governance arrangements
  • Performance of the partnership
  • Financial management and value for money
  • Partner Engagement and Feedback

 

Due to the Housing Strategy & Development Manager being unable to attend, the Committee posed several questions that the Corporate Change Manager advised she would take back to her:

 

1.    Members wanted further information/clarification about the processes that are in place for tenants who transfer from a housing association property to a GBC property.  Members were keen to explore the process by which these transfer take palce in more detail..

 

2.    Members wanted clarification on what constitutes an affordable rent and how it is this actually set.  The Director (Corporate Services) advised that this is quite complex but in basic terms an affordable rent represents 80% of the market rent level for the property.  Members wanted to be clear on how the market rent level is set and who is responsible for setting this rent level.  In addition, Members asked for additional information about the Housing Benefit Cap level in Gravesham.

 

3.    Councillors wanted to discuss in more detail the way in which the properties are allocated to tenants.  Cllr Caller raised a query about people coming out of London and being housed in affordable units in Gravesham.  Members wanted clarification on how properties are allocated and specifically, how they are allocated to Gravesham resident.

 

It was also agreed by the Committee that the item Partnership Review – Housing Associations would be put back on the agenda for Thursday, 08 March 2018 and the Housing Strategy & Development Manager would be invited along to answer the questions in detail.

 

46.

General Fund Revenue and Capital Estimates 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 385 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director (Corporate Services) and Assistant Director (Corporate Services) presented the Committee with the draft revenue and capital estimates for General Fund services in 2018-19 as well as the levied Council Tax level that was approved by Cabinet on 05 February 2018.

 

The Assistant Director (Corporate Services) advised that the Provisional Local Government

Finance Settlement sets out the level of funding assessed by Central Government for

Councils (the Settlement Funding Assessment – SFA) and is made up of two elements – Revenue Support Grant (RSG) and Business Rates Retention. The Business Rates retention element of the assessment increases each year in line with RPI, with the RSG element effectively used to bring the funding received by Councils to the level assessed by Central Government.

 

On 19 December 2017, the provisional settlement for 2018-19 was announced and as part of these announcements, the Secretary of State confirmed that Kent & Medway had been successful in its bid to become a Business Rates Pilot area for 2018-19. In becoming part of a Pilot area, the Council therefore agreed to forego RSG in return for retaining a higher share of business rates. On that basis, Government determined that the baseline level of business rates in 2018-19 for Gravesham would be £3,048,190. Gravesham will have the fifth lowest level of core spending power per dwelling in Kent at £243. This is a reduction of

7.3% (£19 per dwelling) compared to the equivalent Core Spending Power measure in 2017-

18.

 

The Cabinet was reminded that the MTFS for 2016-17 to 2019-20 identified a residual funding gap of £2.5m emerging in 2019-20 which increased by a further £0.4m to £2.9m last year. The MTFS details the actions to be taken by the Council in order to bridge the funding gap. These actions commenced during 2016-17 and have continued during 2017-18.

However, it has now been identified that further savings of around £2.0m will need to be delivered by the Council until 2021-22. Just over £1.0m of these savings will be received from the further bridging the gap activity which is yet to be delivered. The Council will therefore have a window of three years in which to identify further activity that can contribute to meeting the further savings required particularly as there still remained significant volatility in proposed changes to local government funding from 2020-21 as detailed below:-

 

  • Spending Review 2019;
  • Fair Funding Review;
  • Business Rates Reset;
  • 75% Business Rates Retention; and
  • New Homes Bonus

 

With regard to local government funding reductions, the Committee stated that the Council must express its concern when opportunities arise i.e. via Government consultations etc.

 

In relation to the council tax to be levied, Members were advised that the settlement announcements extended the flexibility for District Councils in setting council tax levels by permitting District Councils to raise council tax by 3% or up to and including £5 (whichever is higher) without triggering the requirement for referendum (for 2017-18 council tax increases were limited to 2% or up to and including £5  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46.

47.

Housing Revenue Account Estimates 2018/19 and Housing Capital Programme pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director (Corporate Services) presented the Committee with the draft revenue and capital estimates for Housing Revenue Account Services in 2018-19 and the level of rents and service charges for 2018-19 as presented to Cabinet on the 05 February 2018.

 

Members were reminded that the Government made a commitment in the summer 2015 Budget to reduce social rents by 1% a year for four years from April 2016 to April 2019 inclusive (i.e. for financial years 2016-17 to 2019-20) to help reduce the Housing Benefit bill and cut the deficit. Adhering to the new Government rents decrease formula, the authority’s average rent will decrease to £87.77 in 2018-19 compared to £88.25 in 2017-18 (the average rent reduction will not be exactly equal to 1% due to re-letting of void properties at target rent and additions of properties during the year). The Government also expects authorities to protect tenants against sharp rises in service charges and that the increase in the service charge of an individual property should not exceed CPI+1% with the CPI figure as at September 2017 being 3.0%. By adhering to this policy, the authority’s average capped service charge is £3.38 per week for 2018-19.

 

 

Following Members questions and comments, the Director (Corporate Services) and the Assistant Director (Corporate Services) explained that:

 

·         The reduced social housing rent of 1% is not applicable for people on benefits living in a private property

·         Information will be brought back to Members regarding the number of households assigned the disabled facilities grant to as well as the financial expenditure throughout the year

 

Resolved that Members noted the information contained with the report and wait to see the outcome of the two reports being submitted to Full Council.