Agenda and minutes
Venue: Civic Centre, Gravesend, Kent
Contact: Committee Section
An apology for absence was received from Councillor Cllr Samir Jassal and Cllr Jenny Wallace; Cllr Gary Harding and Cllr Brian Sangha appeared as their respective substitutes.
The Minutes of the meeting held 17 January 2019 were signed by the Chair.
Declarations of interest
No declarations of interest were made.
The Director (Environment & Operations) and Assistant Director (Operations) presented Members of the Overview Scrutiny Committee with the final update on what has been achieved 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 further 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 Overview Scrutiny Committee made a number of recommendations for
1. Continue to identify areas of repairs and maintenance work that can be carried out in house and increase staffing levels where appropriate to deliver this objective.
2. Provide a further update of repairs and maintenance improvements to the Overview Scrutiny Committee within 12 months in response to the topic review recommendations
3. Ensure regular liaison between the internal Repairs team and the Housing team to ensure that a good client/ contractor relationship is maintained and that information is shared and acted upon.
4. Provide further training to Housing Officers to enable them to provide more comprehensive advice to tenant’s responsibilities and the council’s responsibilities in terms of repairs and maintenance issues.
5. Review ‘repeat offenders’ who have the same or similar repair jobs carried out a number of times and work with housing management to address this issue and to recover repair costs from the tenant where appropriate.
Significant work has been undertaken over the last 24 months; new technology has been introduced alongside an innovative review of existing repairs processes, which challenged existing custom and practices. This enabled the service to achieve the recommendations of the Overview Scrutiny Review whilst giving clearer guidance to both the tenants and the council as a landlord.
These changes have not only improved the service for Gravesham tenants but have also achieved significant savings now and will continue to do so in the future. The service will continue to build on its successes to date as a result of the review and will feedback through the relevant committees.
The Assistant Director (Operations) highlighted the following to the Committee:
· A saving of just over £1m was realised within Responsive Repairs in 2017/18.
· Towards the end of 2018 an increase to the establishment of both the responsive repair and voids team commenced. Depending on the trade, it cost the Council anywhere between 19% and 36% less than what our current contractors would charge the council for providing the same resource.
· It is estimated that by completing the kitchen and bathroom programme work in-house that it will save in the region of £760,000 per year, £23m over the 30 year HRA business plan.
· The target to complete Emergency ... view the full minutes text for item 102.
he Director (Corporate Services) and the Assistant Director (Corporate Services) presented the Committee with the draft revenue and capital estimates for General Fund services in 2019-20 together with the recommended level of council tax to be levied for 2019-20.
The Assistant Director (Corporate Services) highlighted the following:
· On 13 December 2018, the provisional settlement for 2019-20 was announced. The provisional settlement would be the final year of the multi-year finance settlement announced in 2016-17 and completes the Government’s intended reduction in the total level of funding for local government over the next three-year period.
The Settlement Funding Assessment (SFA) for the Council was a slightly improved position than that expected due to the decision of Government to provide an additional £153m of funding to those authorities that were due to pay negative RSG for 2019/20. For Gravesham, this amounted to £243,710 that the Council was expecting to lose by way of a reduction to its business rates retention baseline funding level.
· The council has secured indicative NHB funding for 2019-20 of £611,150 (the Council had budgeted £452,000) This is above the level of funding that was previously in the MTFP, with the increase principally due to there being 349 net additions to the housing stock of the borough between October 2017 and October 2018, above the 160 net additional homes needed to meet the 0.4% national baseline.
· Kent & Medway were unsuccessful in retaining pilot status for Business Rates in 2019-20, so GBC will revert back to being part of the Kent Pool arrangement.
· The budget reflects the second year of the pay offer made by National Employers for Local Government which represents a 2% pay rise for staff with some adjustments to the lower pay points to continue to close the gap with the national living wage and also to maintain the differentials between pay scales towards the lower end.
· The vacancy allowance has been maintained for the General Fund at £350,000 and work continues with budget holders to develop proposal for services and address the Council’s financial position.
· The funding gap, and therefore action required by the council, increased by £0.4m to £2.9m when setting the budget for 2017-18, primarily driven by the changes to the design of the New Homes Bonus Scheme. The funding gap was widened by at least a further £1m at budget setting 2018-19 due to the financial impact of low housebuilding rates in the borough, the higher than anticipated staff pay award and lower than expected interest rates.
· An update on each workstream of Bridging the Gap activity was presented to Cabinet and Overview Scrutiny in Summer 2018. Further to this, in November 2018 both Cabinet and Overview Scrutiny were presented with further Balancing the Budget Initiatives amounting to just under £1.3m in response to the budget gap identified at budget setting 2018-19.
· The council has undertaken a critical review of its council tax base to analyse movements in the tax base between 2018-19 and 2019-20. This has resulted in a slight reduction ... view the full minutes text for item 103.
he Director (Corporate Services) and Assistant Director (Corporate Services)presented the Committee with the draft revenue and capital estimates for Housing Revenue Account Services in 2019-20 together with the determination of the level of rents and service charges for 2019-20.
The Assistant Director (Corporate Services) highlighted the following:
· The Council is budgeting for income of £27.2million, versus expenditure of £30.7million
with the need to draw £3.5million funds from the general HRA reserve, principally to fund works within the capital programme.
· The budget reflects the second year of the pay offer.
· The HRA will retain a vacancy allowance of £100,000
· The Finance Team have worked with budget holders to challenge their budgets, as a consequence of this the Council is delivering £54,000 of ongoing budget reductions which builds on £241,000 that’s been realised by that process over the last 2 years.
· Salary related savings total £466,000 due to reviewing the staffing establishment and removing long term vacant posts.
· The budget also reflects the last year of the government’s rent reduction policy which requires rents to be reduced by 1% annually, which will see the average weekly rent for the authority falling from its current level of £87.77 per week to £87.71 per week in 2019/20.
· Service Charges: September CPI gives a figure of 3.4%
· The Capital programme for the year is estimated at £16.7million which reflects investment in the Council’s existing stock and also the continuation of the new build and acquisition programme.
The Director (Corporate Services) explained that the vacancy allowance is designed to reflect the natural turnover within the year. The Council tries to minimise the impact on service delivery wherever possible.
The Director (Corporate Services) advised that the Local Government Association is lobbying on behalf of Local Authorities regarding central government housing policies that many feel are unfair (e.g. Local Authorities Right to Buy receipts to fund no more than 30% of the cost of a replacement unit).
The Chair noted that this was a well-managed account and more social housing is to be welcomed but it doesn’t seem right that the people paying for it are the poorest. If the costs were to be shared it would be fairer.
Resolved that the Overview Scrutiny Committee noted the Cabinet recommendations that will be presented to Full Council.