Agenda and minutes

The Economy, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee - Tuesday, 1st December, 2015 7.00 pm

Venue: Small Hall - Hammersmith Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Ainsley Gilbert  Tel: 020 8753 2088

Items
No. Item

23.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Lucy Ivimy.

24.

Declarations of Interest

* See note below.

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

25.

Minutes & Actions pdf icon PDF 180 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 3rd November 2015 and to note progress made against actions.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 3 November were agreed to be accurate.

26.

The Financial Plan For Council Homes pdf icon PDF 119 KB

Minutes:

Kath Corbett explained that the report addressed the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget and business plan for both the next year and the next 40 years. She explained that when she had attended the PAC last year in December 2014 to discuss the financial plan for council homes, residents had supported a rent increase of CPI (Consumer Price Index) + 1%, a service charge increase at CPI, and an extra £1 per week increase for those not yet paying target rents. This was intended to allow significant investment in the council’s housing stock, and was considered to be a good balance between affordability for residents and ensuring that homes were of a decent standard. In July 2015 the government had decided to cut all social rents by 1% per year for each of the next four years, which by 2020 would lead to the average weekly rent being £17 per week lower than under the previous plan. The change would however take £24 million from the business plan over the next four years and results in a £74 million shortfall in the Long Term Financial Plan covering the next ten years. She clarified that the HRA was not just losing 1% but the previously planned rises as well. This is a significant loss of expected income; the only reason the position was not even worse was because the recent stock condition survey had reduced some of the future years costs.

 

The planned works schedule would have to be altered to take account of the reduced budget. Planned works for 2016/17 would be protected as it would be difficult practically to cancel them, and residents were already engaged in the plans. The new stock condition survey, carried out as part of the work of the Residents’ Commission on Council Housing, had been very useful in starting to plan a new schedule of works. The Housing Representatives Forum had been asked about what should be protected and what could be delayed, and window replacement had been identified as a priority, alongside boiler replacement, whereas new kitchens, bathrooms and heating systems were seen by residents as less urgent.

 

Kath Corbett said that officers had tried to mitigate the impact on the window replacement programme, but that it had not been possible to protect it completely. She explained that works to windows in the following locations may be delayed: Linacre Court, Derwent Court, Verulam House, Waterhouse Close, Arthur Henderson House, William Banfield House, 5-48 Walham Green Court, Lampeter Square, Clem Attlee Estate, Becklow Gardens, Burnand House, Bradford House, Lancaster Court, Ashcroft Square, White City Estate, Griffin Court and Sulivan Court.

 

Kitchens, bathrooms and electrical wiring might be delayed beyond the replacement cycle period in the following locations: Wormholt Estate, Old Oak Estate, Creighton Close, Orwell, Crengham and Hayter Houses, Aspen Gardens, Flora Gardens, Woodmans Mews, Derwent Court, Chisholm Court, Mylne Close, Standish House, Paddenswick Court, College Court and Bulow Court.

 

Heating distribution systems, including pipework, radiators and controls, might be delayed at: White City  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.

27.

Service Charges for Leaseholders pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Minutes:

Kath Corbett explained that there were two types of charges made by the council to leaseholders. These were the annual service charge, which covered services delivered by the council to a building or estate, and major works bills, which were for significant periodic works done to buildings and tended to be more costly.

 

Service charges were estimated each March and leaseholders were invoiced for this amount which they could then pay in ten monthly instalments. A reconciling invoice or credit note was then issued in the September after the end of the charging period, so that leaseholders paid the cost of the service they received rather than the estimate. The average annual service charge in Hammersmith and Fulham was £827, which was much lower than service charges in either Kensington and Chelsea or Westminster. A resident said that this was appropriate as Hammersmith and Fulham residents were less affluent than those in the other two boroughs. Kath Corbett said that the council knew that approximately 10% of its leaseholders were former social housing tenants who had exercised their right to buy their homes. As well as low service charges the borough had generous payment terms and special schemes for those in financial difficulty.

 

When major works were needed residents were issued with Section 20 notices, before the works began. These were then invoiced after completion, with flexible payment terms available. Major works understandably caused some concern for leaseholders as works to buildings are quite complex and the bills could be significant.

 

Kath Corbett explained that leasehold services were trying to work with residents to improve many of their processes. Some of these related to the service charge, for example, a caretaking service review group had been formed and was to look at what and how caretaking services were provided. Estate inspections were being reviewed again, with a focus on feedback.

 

Improvements to major works processes had been significant, and over the past year with the help of leaseholders the wording and format of the Section 20 notice had been revised, whilst the process of estimating the work required to a building and/or estate have been reviewed. Training has also been provided for staff involved in the process. The repairs working group was also looking at how residents could be made aware of planned works before Section 20 notices were issued. Where leaseholders owned all the flats in a building, they could buy the freehold and then organise works themselves; this opportunity was now given to residents before notices were issued.

 

Councillor Homan said that she thought that services were improving, but noted that there were some areas which were still not as good as she would like; communication between officers, contractors and residents was an area where more needed to be done. She said that it was important that the council worked with residents to get services right, as only they knew what was important to them. Anthony Wood explained that the communications group would be looking at communications between  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.

28.

Work Programme and Date of the Next Meeting pdf icon PDF 151 KB

The next meeting will be held on 19th January 2016.

Minutes:

Councillor De’Ath explained that a revised work programme had been developed and that members views on it would be very welcome. He noted that the March meeting was being kept clear to allow scrutiny of any cabinet decision arising from the Residents’ Commission on Council Housing.

 

Councillor Connell asked that the item about new Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Mitie be brought to the committee soon as the item had first been suggested at the beginning of the municipal year. Anthony Wood explained that a sub group of the repairs working group was looking at this issue, and that they could bring their findings to the committee when they were complete.

 

Anthony Wood also explained that the communications working group was working with officers on a new communications strategy and that the item on the residents communication strategy would best be considered once that had been completed.

 

Shirley Cupit said that there would be a council housing residents conference in June, and that it might be timely to consider the resident involvement structure.

 

Councillor Homan suggested that the discussion on the private rented sector be delayed from the January meeting as the cabinet had agreed in November to consult on a range of options to improve standards in the sector. She suggested that the committee consider the issue once residents views were known. ACTION – Ainsley Gilbert to remove the Private Rented Sector from the work programme for 19 January 2016.