Agenda and minutes

The Economy, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee - Tuesday, 1st November, 2016 7.00 pm

Venue: St John's Church, Vanston Place, Fulham

Contact: Ainsley Gilbert  Tel: 020 8753 2088 / Email  ainsley.gilbert@lbhf.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

20.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence had been received from Councillor Harry Phibbs.

21.

Declarations of Interest

* See note below.

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

22.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 181 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 6 September were agreed to be accurate.

23.

High Streets Review pdf icon PDF 186 KB

Minutes:

Antonia Hollingsworth, Principal Business Investment Officer, explained that the borough had 29 shopping areas which ranged from town centre high streets to small parades and clusters of shops. High streets were currently facing a number of challenges, key ones being: the rise of internet shopping; the 31% increase in rateable values in 2010; multiple ownership of shopping areas, and; the relative ease of converting a shop to a residential property under national planning policies. Despite these challenges shopping areas in Hammersmith and Fulham were coping reasonably well. Vacancy rates for retail units across the borough were about average for London at just over 10%, although the rate on high streets was lower at about 8.5%.

 

Antonia Hollingsworth explained that the PAC had previously asked that officers do more to support North End and Bloemfontein Roads. She said that at North End Road officers had:

-       Supported the North End Road Action Group (NERAG)

-       Facilitated five traffic free markets

-       Ensured that its 8 retail units on the road were let.

The work of NERAG, with help from the council, had led to 600 new opportunities to trade, between 10-15,000 people visiting each market, and ‘trade for a tenner’ opportunities. A Business Improvement District proposal was being developed for Fulham, and this would include North End Road.

 

Turning to talk about Bloemfontein Road, Anntonia Hollingsworth explained that the council was in the fortunate position of owning the whole parade of 15 shops at Bloemfontein Road. 14 of the retail units were let, with the remaining shop currently under offer. A new supermarket had increased competition in the area, but shops had so far survived the impact well. The shop at 75 Bloemfontein Road was being used as a community hub which hosted both a foodbank and a CAB adviser; this was part of the council’s commitment to deliver social inclusion.

 

Mark Richardson, member of NERAG, explained that the group’s North End Road Market Facebook page had 1,400 followers and its online communications had reached 29,000 people in the last month. He said that reduced rate stalls such as ‘trade for a tenner’ had not been particularly successful, however, they were important schemes to encourage new businesses to join the market. There were a number of important issues still affecting North End Road which were: narrow pavements and traffic using the road during the market; insufficient parking for traders and shoppers; there being no public toilets on the street; the lack of power supplies and storage facilities for market traders, and; poor waste disposal arrangements. He said that North End Road had improved significantly over the past few years, but felt that solving some of these problems would be important in ensuring that it thrived as a high street.

 

A market trader said that parking for shoppers was the problem which most affected her business. Antonia Hollingsworth said that the parking on Coomer Place was designed for shoppers. The market trader said that Coomer Place was very  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Creation of H&F Social Lettings Agency pdf icon PDF 501 KB

Minutes:

Councillor Homan, Cabinet Member for Housing, explained that the administration had suggested the creation of a social lettings agency in response to the problem of poor maintenance by leaseholders who were sub-letting their properties. The idea had been that if the council could offer an attractive property management service and get leaseholders in council blocks to use it, it would be easier to ensure that maintenance work was done properly. The model also had other very attractive features; it would allow the council to influence the private rented market, upon which the council and residents relied heavily for accommodation, and would also help the council build up a portfolio of accommodation for people with special needs, such as wheelchair users. She explained that she would welcome residents comments on the proposal.

 

Labab Lubab, Housing Opportunities Manager, explained that quite a few councils had now set up social lettings agencies of different types and these had had varying degrees of success. The essence of a social lettings agency was that it would focus on sustaining tenancies, which wasn’t necessarily the most profitable option for commercial lettings agents. Mr Lubab explained that there was little regulation of lettings agents, alongside huge demand for housing and that this allowed some agents to be quite unscrupulous. The council’s entry into the market would allow it to compete with these agents and drive up standards. Labab Lubab explained that the council already had a very good housing property procurement service and that the social lettings agency would build on the knowledge and contacts which had already been built up. There were many property owners who were keen to work with the council because of its good reputation, gained from being the borough’s largest landlord. The proposal was expected to generate income for the council over the medium term, as a profit could be made on providing the service; this profit could be used to subsidise cheaper housing for those in need. If the social lettings agency was successful in sustaining tenancies then this would also reduce demand for housing advice and assistance. Labab Lubab explained that the effectiveness of the social lettings agency would be reviewed after one year of operation.

 

A resident said that if rent control hadn’t been removed in the 1980s a social lettings agency would not be necessary. Councillor Connell noted that this was out of the control of local councils.

 

Councillor Connell asked whether securing 500 units in the first year was feasible and if there was a financial risk to the council if the agency did not hit its targets. Labab Lubab said that whilst 500 units was an ambitious target it was an achievable one as 10,000 properties were put up for let each year in Hammersmith and Fuham alone; he said that the agency could also take on properties outside of the borough which meant even more might be available to the social lettings agency.  There was a risk to the council of approximately £200,000 but it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.

25.

Open Doors: Ensuring A Thriving Library Service in Hammersmith & Fulham pdf icon PDF 293 KB

Minutes:

Councillor Harcourt, Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Residents Services, explained that the council was committed to keeping all of its libraries open. The administration had pledged to modernise and widen the appeal of libraries and this report updated the committee on the work which had been done since its July meeting.

 

Mike Clarke explained that the work to modernise and widen the appeal of the council’s libraries also included work to make them more sustainable financially and protect them for the future. One of the ideas to do this had been to pass responsibilities for the libraries to a trust, however, this was not being taken forward because at present the costs and risks of such a move outweighed its benefits. Savings were also being planned for the elements of the libraries service shared with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council; Hammersmith and Fulham would save £90,000 as a result of these efficiencies. The council was looking to bring in more revenue through its libraries, for example by selling hot drinks and stationery, renting out space to organisations which provided services which would complement existing library services, increasing the number of lettings to groups, and by holding weddings at Fulham Library. Mike Clarke said that the council wanted to use volunteers to do more in libraries, not replacing paid staff, but providing extra services. Work had begun to ensure that volunteers were given the support they needed.

 

A resident noted that there was scaffolding up at Hammersmith Library and asked what was being done. Mike Clarke explained that the roof was being repaired and that these works would be completed in the near future.

 

Karen Blackwell, Library Assistant at Fulham Library, said that she did not feel weddings were being advertised well enough. Mike Clarke agreed and said that this was being dealt with. Karen Blackwell said that there was also an issue with cleaning by Amey. Councillor Coleman asked that he be passed the details as it was important that contractors be held to their contract standards.

 

Councillor Coleman asked whether any work had been done commercialising the council’s extensive archive. Helen Worwood said that a business case had been developed for digitising old photos of the borough and then selling prints of these, however, the initial outlay was high and the income was very uncertain. Councillor Coleman asked to be sent the business case. Mike Clarke explained that the idea of using items as props in filming seemed unlikely to work as there were not many suitable items in the archive. It was noted that filming in libraries had to be balanced against the provision of the library service.

 

Mark Richardson said that he felt the Hammersmith and Fulham Libraries Facebook page ought to be more varied; at the moment it seemed to mostly promote children’s activities when there was much more going on in libraries.

 

Antonia Hollingsworth, Principal Business Investment Officer, said that she had previously suggested a scheme  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.

26.

Date of the Next Meeting and Work Programme pdf icon PDF 145 KB

The next meeting will be held on 13 December in the Small Hall at Hammersmith Town Hall. The meeting will start at 7:00pm.

Members and residents are invited to submit suggestions for the work programme, either at the meeting or by email to ainsley.gilbert@lbhf.gov.uk

Minutes:

Those present noted that the next meeting would be held on Tuesday 13 December 2016 at 7pm in the Small Hall.

 

The PAC work programme was noted.