Agenda and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Windmill Street, Gravesend DA12 1AU. View directions

Contact: Committee Section 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Cllr Rana (Cllr Hart substituted).

2.

To sign the minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 136 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of the Overview Scrutiny Committee held on Thursday 17 November 2022 were agreed and signed by the Chair.

3.

To declare any interests which members may have on the items contained on this agenda. When declaring an interest members must state what their interest is.

Minutes:

Cllr Ejaz Aslam declared an interest in Item 5. Call ins: Item 6 – Formation of a Social Lettings Agency as he was a private landlord.

4.

Call ins - Item called in from the Cabinet meeting of 30 May 2023; Item 6 - Formation of a Social Lettings Agency (SLA)

The Chair of the Overview Scrutiny Committee has called in the following item for the meeting on Thursday 08 June 2023, 7:30pm: -

 

Item 6: Formation of a Social Lettings Agency (SLA)

 

Reason:

  • To evaluate how this decision represents and will deliver Value for Money. 
  • To examine how the decision will impact the Council's resources. 
  • To explore further how this decision will support the residents of Gravesham. 
  • To understand the decision against the backdrop of proposed regulatory and legislative reform. 
  • To ensure that the decision is based on a robust cost–benefit analysis and underpinned by sound market research.

Cabinet Member:  Housing Services, Cllr Jenny Wallace

Officers:                  Daniel Killian (Director of Housing) and Victoria May                                           (Service Manager - Housing Options)

(Please ensure you have access to the Cabinet agenda for 30 May 2023 previously circulated to Members)

 

Minutes:

The Overview Scrutiny Committee were presented with a report that was taken to Cabinet and provided an overview of the rationale to create a not-for-profit Social Lettings Agency (SLA) in Gravesham. This included the employment of a Letting’s Manager to lead the project and deliver the agency.

 

The Director (Housing Services) and the Service Manager (Housing Options) highlighted the following key points:

 

  • As a Local Authority, Gravesham Borough Council (GBC) has a statutory responsibility to provide temporary accommodation.
  • There has been a significant increase in those accessing the service, which has resulted in financial pressure with a sum of £1.8m being spent last year on temporary accommodation.
  • Housing Services have struggled to access the private housing sector, and have been looking at ways to reduce the impact to the Council and provide a better outcome for those in temporary accommodation.
  • In 2022/23, Housing Services had over 1900 presentations from households requesting a service as they are in threat of being homeless and there are over 200 households in temporary accommodation.
  • Private renting was increasing in cost, making it harder for residents to access. There are considerable gaps between the market rent and the local housing allowance leaving large top ups to find for households dependent on welfare benefits.
  • A Temporary Accommodation Policy was introduced, and a charge is placed for temporary accommodation, and this is not provided for free.
  • It is deemed sensible for GBC to step into the private housing market, there are already landlords who are interested in working with Gravesham, and they have a wholly owned private company that provide housing repairs to help support working in this sector.
  • Two existing members of staff would be used to fulfil a role under the Social Lettings Agency, and they would require one new Lettings Manager post to recruit for the Social Lettings Agency that will move this service forward and manage the agency.
  • A new system had been identified that is used in the marketplace that allows effective communication and can hold documents to ensure regulatory compliance.
  • Rosherville will be the recommended contractor for repair work however landlords can select their own providers.
  • Within the first year, they will aim to secure 20 properties – starting small to do it right and expand when necessary.
  • Initially, they will aim to work with landlords who hold a portfolio of properties to provide tenants with a meaningful housing option.

 

Cllr Jenny Wallace addressed the committee and advised this was a win-win situation for both residents and landlords, as well as saving the Council money with little output. It was estimated that the Social Lettings Agency (SLA) could generate approximately £300k worth of savings in its first year, and consequently help with the temporary accommodation shortfall. With the Renters Reform Bill, they have seen an increase in landlords leaving the market, but the SLA provides them with an option to hand their property over to be managed by the SLA and with guaranteed rent and may encourage them to continuing being  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Any other business which by reason of special circumstances the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency.

Minutes:

Whilst the matter wasn’t urgent, the Chair encouraged members of the committee to think about topics for a scrutiny review and to bring these suggestions back to the next committee.