Agenda and minutes

The Economy, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee
Monday, 28th January, 2019 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1 - Hammersmith Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Charles Francis  Email: charles.francis@lbhf.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

26.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were provided by Councillor Ann Rosenberg and Councillor Andrew Jones.

 

27.

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

28.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 145 KB

 To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 4 December 2018.

Minutes:

The Chair explained that an update report had been requested on the work of the Arts Commission. The Committee were disappointed to learn there would be a delayed response to the actions raised at the last meeting.

 

The minutes of the meeting held on 12 December 2018 were agreed as an accurate record.

 

29.

2019 Medium Term Financial Strategy pdf icon PDF 178 KB

This report sets out the budget proposals for the services covered by this Policy and Accountability Committee (PAC). An update is also provided on any proposed changes in fees and charges.  

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Hitesh Jolapara (Strategic Director, Finance and Governance) introduced the report that set out the budget proposals for the services covered by the Committee. He showed slides that gave context for the scale of the challenge facing local government in recent years.

 

H&F’s general government grant funding had been cut each year since 2010/11. The total reduction since April 2010 to April 2019 was £73m. This was a cash terms reduction of 47% and real terms reduction of 59%. It was noted that Funding was forecast to be reduced by a further 5% per annum from 2020/21 onwards with no confirmation of the continuation of new one-off funding of £4m received in 2019/20.

 

It was noted that Government resource assumptions, that were used to calculate Government grant for the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham (LBHF), model the Council increasing council tax by 3% in 2019/20. 

 

In terms of the adult social care precept, the Committee learnt that due to the continued high levels of inflation in the social care market and the Government’s continued failure to propose a long-term funding solution to social care funding, the Council proposed, for the first time, to allow 2% of the government’s adult social care levy for 2019/20.   

 

Concluding his initial remarks, Hitesh Jolapara explained that in accordance with the administration’s policy of keeping the council tax low while protecting and improving services, the Council’s budgeted council tax increase was restricted to an inflationary increase of 2.7%.

 

Councillor Zarar Qayyum asked how business rates were forecast. Hitesh Jolapara explained that business rates were calculated using the same rate in the pound (the multiplier) across the whole of England. It was noted that there were two national multipliers, the first was the national non-domestic rate multiplier which was used to calculate the rates for all businesses. The second multiplier was for small businesses who qualified for rate relief. The actual amount a business would pay was calculated by multiplying the rateable value of the property by the relevant multiplier.

 

Councillor Zarar Qayyum followed his question by asking whether the Council’s Business Intelligence Unit provided a calculation on those new businesses that came into the borough (annually). Officers responded that the work on new businesses was completed by the Business Rates Team. Intelligence was gained from a number of sources including the work of Council Inspectors, Valuation Office Agency, information from new occupiers, landlords and their agents and Street Naming & Numbering (Gazetteer). This year, the Council’s database had grown from 9,795 properties on 3 April 2018 (rateable value £567,261,653) to 9,952 properties expected at the end of March 2019 (rateable value £580,194,220), an increase of approx. £6.2m.

 

 

 

Councillor Rowan Ree noted the reduction in overall grant funding and asked for further details to be provided on forecasting and how this worked. Hitesh Jolapara said that Finance officers looked at inflation, spoke to service areas and used these conversations to produce a forecast on inflation. Further calculations were then conducted on budget pressures. He explained that when  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.

30.

FINANCIAL PLAN FOR COUNCIL HOMES 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 102 KB

This report covers the 2019/20 budget for the Council’s homes (also known as the annual Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget).

 

 

Minutes:

Councillor Lisa Homan (Cabinet Member for Housing) and Emily Hill (Assistant Director, Corporate Finance) introduced the report that covered the proposed Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget and the Financial Plan for Council Homes.

 

Emily Hill stated that the draft budget for Council homes for 2019/20 included the final year of the decision by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce social housing rents by 1% each year for four years from April 2016. Moving forwards, it was noted that rents may need to increase in future years to support the effective management and maintenance of homes - Government announced last year that annual rent increases are likely to be limited to the Consumer Price Index (CPI + 1%) for at least five years from April 2020.

 

Councillor Lisa Homan explained that the Fire Safety Plus Programme (started in 2017) would continue to make sure that the Council’s homes and property meet high standards and this programme would move into the delivery phase. This would be supported by the new HRA Asset Management Strategy, which was approved at Cabinet on 3rd December 2018 which set out the priorities for investment in the Council’s homes, with fire safety and health and safety compliance of primary importance.

 

Emily Hill highlighted that the repairs and maintenance contract with MITIE was being terminated and the Council would be introducing a more permanent, residents’ focused delivery model.

 

To enable the successful delivery of the Capital Programme, fire safety plus, and improved services to residents, restructures to the Growth and Place directorate were under way. This had resulted in budget growth of £1.94m in these areas of operations, which would enable on going revenue savings of £0.8m per annum from 2020/21 rising to £0.9m per annum from 2021/22. It was anticipated that these savings would materialise due to better stock condition following investment and savings from improved customer service.

 

In relation to rent increases, Councillor Lisa Homan assured the Committee that the Council had consulted residents about what the Council thought was a reasonable rent increase going forwards. Councillor Adronie Alford commented that she thought rent levels were meant to be on parity with Housing Associations. In response, Councillor Homan commented that the Council’s current rents were low and very competitive within the market place.

 

Councillor Rowan Ree asked what the impact was of the Right to Buy scheme on the HRA. Councillor Lisa Homan confirmed that at present, the Council was selling between 30 to 35 properties per year. David McNulty confirmed that the implications of Right to Buy on the HRA was a technical area and further information could be provided outside the meeting.

 

Action: David McNulty to provide further information on the Right to Buy scheme and HRA outside the meeting.

 

Councillor Adronie Alford asked about the Fire Safety Plus Programme and specifically how the Council made savings by investing. In response, Councillor Lisa Homan provided a detailed explanation of how infrastructure and maintenance savings could be made. She also explained that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.

31.

TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION PRESSURES pdf icon PDF 138 KB

Minutes:

Glendine Shepherd (Assistant Director, Housing Management) introduced the report that set out the challenges in delivering services to fulfil the Council’s statutory obligation to provide suitable and affordable TA in the face of welfare reform changes, rising accommodation costs and decreasing availability of in-borough accommodation.

 

As well as providing a comprehensive overview of the pressures, Glendine Shepherd outlined what the Council was currently doing to help mitigate the risks. Steps included, having a strong TA reduction programme in place to reduce the financial impact of this accommodation type.

 

It was noted that a Cabinet report had been written requesting the Authority join Capital Letters -  an ambitious Government and London Councils sponsored scheme to centralise the procurement of TA and Private Rented accommodation from private landlords. Further actions included, implementing an interim staffing structure to prepare for the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 with temporary roles being budgeted to end in March 2019.  In the longer term, Glendine Shepherd explained that a full-service review was underway to establish the interim structure and review overall service delivery to ensure a robust response to the new legislation, ensure legal compliance and provide greater emphasis on preventing and relieving homelessness.

 

In addition, and as a result of the current budget pressures for 18/19, Glendine Shepherd explained that a review of the TA provision had been carried out to ensure that the best possible value for money was being achieved from available resources. Finally, it was noted that the introduction of a new Trail Blazer service would support and enable tenants to gain exemption from the Benefits Cap through: Training and qualifying employment; Disability/Carers benefit where possible; Crowd funding arrangements in partnership with BEAM (a service that fund-raises for employment and training for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

 

Concluding her initial remarks, Glendine Shepherd stated that increasing the supply of social and affordable housing was crucial to thesuccess of any strategic approach to managing the TA process. Low turnover in social housing (in common with all of London) had slowed the TA move on process and resulted in more households remaining in TA for longer periods – compounding the need for additional TA units. It was noted that the Council plans to increase affordable housing, reducing pressure on TA budgets by providing permanent lower cost homes through direct delivery, partnership with housing associations and working with developers through the planning process

 

Councillor Zarar Qayyum asked in cases where a resident or homeless person had a connection within the borough whether this affected their housing entitlement. In response, Glendine Shepherd explained that this factor only carried weight if it was for an application for permanent housing. In those cases where an offer of temporary accommodation was appropriate, only temporary accommodation would be offered on a time limited basis.

 

Councillor Zara Qayyum asked for further details to be provided on the Trail Blazer scheme. Glendine Shepherd explained that this was a 2-year pilot scheme funded by the Government which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.