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Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
Declarations of Interest
* See note below.
There were no declarations of interest.
The minutes of the meeting held on 6 September 2017 were agreed to be accurate.
Councillor Phibbs noted that whilst his Freedom of Information request had been responded to, he had understood at the previous meeting that the response would include the Fire Risk Assessments he had requested, which it had not. Councillor Homan said that she agreed that the Fire Risk Assessments should have been shared with Councillor Phibbs and agreed to raise the issue with relevant officers.
Councillor Homan said that Hammersmith and Fulham Council could be proud of its record in dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour; whilst, due to the nature of this area of work, there would always be very difficult individual cases, the work officers did to resolve issues was very good. Councillor Homan noted she and Councillor Fennimore met with senior officers once a month to ensure that cases were being resolved.
Claire Rai explained that the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit had been established in 2002 to prevent and address ASB and hate crime. She said that the team could only be successful in achieving its aims and objectives by working in partnership with other organisations, in particular, housing officers and the police although the service also worked with housing associations such as Notting Hill Housing Group and Shepherds Bush Housing Group. From January 2018 a new Community Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) would be considering serious ASB cases which would make partnership working even better.
All reported Anti-Social Behaviour was graded, with 1 being the most dangerous and impactful ASB, which was often linked to criminality, and 4 being less serious ASB such as neighbour disputes. The grading assessment included factors such as history, evidence and the likely impact of the behaviour. ASB graded at 3 or 4 was dealt with by housing officers, whilst the more serious and difficult cases were dealt with by the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit. Officers dealt with each case individually and developed an action plan which was then agreed with the victim before any action was taken. Actions could include tenancy action, acceptable behaviour contracts, and other forms of legal action.
The team also arranged support for victims of ASB. Support might include target hardening measures, reassurance visits from neighbourhood wardens, and referrals to other services including Victim Support. In the most serious cases it might be appropriate to move victims to another property through a management transfer.
Claire Rai told the meeting that securing evictions could be very challenging as the courts expected all alternatives to have been tried before granting permission to end a tenancy; where vulnerable people were perpetrating the ASB this became even more difficult. There were also issues with gathering evidence as victims could be too scared to be prepared to give evidence which was acceptable to courts. Professional witnesses, community impact statements and CCTV evidence could be used, but residents were often key and so support was provided throughout the legal process.
Claire Rai gave a number of statistics on the service, saying that between April 2016 and October 2017 the ASBU had:
• Obtained 16 closure orders, 1 criminal behaviour order and 6 injunctions
• Conducted 10 Acceptable Behaviour Agreements
• Served 35 Notices of Seeking Possession
• Obtained 1 suspended possession order and 8 outright possessions
• Evicted 6 households
• Extended 2 probationary tenancies and served 2 notices to quit
• Written 214 warning letters
• Supported 13 management transfers
• Contributed to 5 adult safeguarding meetings
Peter Hannon ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
Councillor Homan said that the improvements which had been made to Leasehold Services were a good example of how officers and residents working together could make things better. Kath Corbett explained that improvements had been led by Leaseholder Services working with leaseholders to find out what needed to change. The improvements made so far had been around:
- Clearer Communication, with a Leaseholder’s Charter being introduced to guide residents and officers on their responsibilities, as well as changes being made to letters and the Council’s website to make them easier to understand.
- Better invoicing, with joint inspections for major works and leaseholders checking reactive repairs statements before billing took place which both improved accuracy. Improvements were also made to the layout and content of invoices and consultation notices so that as well as being accurate, financial documents were easy to understand.
- A More Professional Team, with better recruitment, retention and training, a better phone system and better links with other departments.
Councillor Johnson noted that Hammersmith and Fulham had comparatively low service charges and asked whether the services provided were comparable. Kath Corbett said that there were of course some differences in the services but that they were broadly similar. Councillor Homan said that the level of service charges in some private developments were extremely high and that whilst Hammersmith and Fulham’s charges were not the cheapest in London they were both affordable and good value.
Councillor Phibbs said that he felt leaseholders should be offered a shared freehold more readily by the Council. Councillor Homan said that where all of the flats in a building were now owned by leaseholders the Council did encourage the leaseholders to take on the freehold. However, where a building continued to contain Council tenants it was very difficult to transfer the building. A resident said that in her experience leaseholders were unwilling to carry out necessary works and so she would not want to be a tenant in a block owned by leaseholders.
Councillor Phibbs asked whether the level of detail in the Council’s S.125 notices were sufficiently detailed. Jana Du Preez explained that the Council provided very detailed legal notices but agreed to look into whether more needed to be done and respond to Councillor Phibbs outside of the meeting.
Councillor Connell asked what residents reaction had been to the Leaseholders Charter. Councillor Homan said that the document had been well received and was proving useful in discussions with leaseholders; the document was not particularly exciting and so had not provoked much of a response when it had first been launched.
Glendine Shepherd explained that the Council had last amended its Scheme of Allocation in November 2015. Officers had reviewed the operation of the scheme and feedback from residents and Councillors and had proposed a number of possible changes.
Gerry Crowley explained that the principal changes proposed were:
Bedroom Standard – To include an 18-21 year old member of a household when calculating the number of bedrooms required by existing Council tenants.
Local Residency Qualification (Existing Tenants) – To exempt those currently with a Council tenancy from the five year local residency qualification.
Local Residency Qualification (Joint Applicants) – Where a joint application is made, to require only one member of the household to meet the five year local residency qualification.
Under-Occupation/Downsizing – To give a preference to a household which is seeking to downsize even if the household is seeking to downsize to a property up to 1 bedroom larger than their assessed need.
Service Tenancies – To clarify the existing wording.
Disability – To add details of the existing assessment process to make this clearer.
Councillor Phibbs said that he felt the proposed change to the policy on under-occupation was a good idea. Anthony Wood noted that there was a financial incentive for those who wished to downsize and asked whether this was having the desired effect. Gerry Crowley said that there were 200 people looking to downsize. There were however insufficient properties for residents to downsize into, especially as those looking to move were often also more demanding about where they would move; giving downsizing residents greater priority and the ability to keep an extra bedroom would help to resolve this and release some of the Council’s larger properties.
Councillor Phibbs asked whether the proposed change to bedroom standards would increase demand on larger properties. Gerry Crowley said that there would be an increase in demand for larger properties but that, if limited to existing Council tenants, this was a manageable increase. A resident said that the Council could consider whether the young person could afford to live alone in the borough before including them in the assessment of the number of bedrooms needed.
Councillor Johnson asked whether the potential for fraudulent applications would increase if only one of the people making a joint application needed to meet the residency criteria. Glendine Shepherd explained that officers would check that the relationship was bona fide as part of the assessment process. Councillor Johnson said that he felt it might be easier for officers to manage if this situation was managed through director’s discretion.
Schemes for allowing leaseholders to downsize to a Council property and for giving tenants support to buy a property in parts of the country with lower housing costs were discussed and Councillor Homan confirmed that officers were already looking at these ideas.
Councillor Connell asked, with reference to the proposed exemption to the local residency qualification, how Council tenants might have been allocated a property in Hammersmith and Fulham if they did not meet the current ... view the full minutes text for item 26.
The next meeting will be held on 16 January 2018 in the Courtyard Room 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Connell asked whether the item on Housing for Disabled People could be considered before the end of the municipal year. Councillor Homan suggested that, as the Disabled People’s Commission was due to report very shortly, it would be better to leave the item until the Council had had a chance to consider and respond to their recommendations.