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Contact: Debbie Yau Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for Absence
No apologies for absence were received.
Declarations of Interest
If a Councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a particular item, whether or not it is entered in the Authority’s register of interests, or any other significant interest which they consider should be declared in the public interest, they should declare the existence and, unless it is a sensitive interest as defined in the Member Code of Conduct, the nature of the interest at the commencement of the consideration of that item or as soon as it becomes apparent.
Where Members of the public are not allowed to be in attendance and speak, then the Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest should withdraw from the meeting whilst the matter is under consideration. Councillors who have declared other significant interests should also withdraw from the meeting if they consider their continued participation in the matter would not be reasonable in the circumstances and may give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.
Councillors are not obliged to withdraw from the meeting where a dispensation to that effect has been obtained from the Standards Committee.
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve the minutes of the previous meeting on 14 November 2022.
The minutes of the meeting held on 14 November 2022 were agreed to be accurate.
This report sets out the budget proposals for the services covered by the Housing and Homelessness Policy and Accountability Committee. An update is also provided on any proposed changes in fees and charges in the budget.
Councillor Rowan Ree (Cabinet Member for Finance and Reform) expressed his appreciation for staff in the Finance team who had worked out the current Budget under the difficult circumstances of rising rates of inflation and bank interests and a tight timeframe. He also highlighted the contributions of Cabinet Members in the tough processes. The Budget had based on realistic assumptions to achieve savings and efficiency. Councillor Ree said he was proud that despite a 56% cut in the resources from the general government grant funding as compared to 2010/11, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) was able to provide unique services such as providing free breakfasts to school children, establishing a local Law Enforcement Team to keep the streets safe and clean and stopping the use of bailiffs to collect Council Tax debt.
Sukvinder Kalsi (Director of Finance) presented the item which covered the Budget 2023/24 and Mid Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) 2024/25+. He outlined the national and local strategic operating environment, proposed revenue budget strategy 2023/24 and the key principles, Council Tax considerations, major savings proposals and growth allocations, and a Reserve summary. Members noted the dates for the proposals to be presented to the relevant committees, the Cabinet and Full Council.
In reply to Councillor Asif Siddique’s enquiry, Sukvinder Kalsi highlighted that the Council’s Reserve stood at a reasonable and adequate level comparable to those of other London Authorities. In case of emergency like the past pandemic, he expected that funding support would be made available by the Central Government. Councillor Ree noted that it was prudent for the Council to set aside funds in the General Reserve for IT upgrading works in the next few years.
Responding to Councillor Paul Alexander’s concern, Councillor Ree noted that it was proposed to earmark £1.5 million (m) for refuse collection which aimed at keeping as well as improving the current services.
Councillor Alexander and officers exchanged views on the ways of calculating rent arrears. Daniel Rochford (Head of Finance) noted that while all monies received were kept in the same bank account, they were listed separately as ‘rent’ and ‘rent in advance’ for accounting purpose. Overpayment involving the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), if any, would be sorted out fairly by the Council every accounting year through individual reconciliation. Martin Calleja (Assistant Director, Service Improvement) assured members that colleagues in the Rent Income Team and Welfare Team were very aware of the financial pressures faced by the residents in managing the utility and food bills. They endeavoured to help the tenants in resolving the rent arrears carefully to prevent the situations to get worse.
In response to Councillor Adronie Alford’s question, Sukvinder Kalsi noted that the developer contributions of £46 m (Table 9) were the balance of the lumpsum already received as of March 2022. This was included to show the overall position in terms of financial planning. He said that the developer and sales contributions were always based on legal agreements and they could be difficult ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
This item presents an overview of the Housing Revenue Account budget for 2023/24.
Daniel Rochford (Head of Finance) presented the item and briefed the Committee on the Council’s Strategic Operating Environment, an overview of proposed Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Budget 2023/24 including the key assumptions, proposed capital programme to 2026/27, and some key metrics.
The Chair asked how officers anticipated and mitigated against the varying caps imposed by central government in their longer-term planning which were minus one percent for a number of years and was no seven percent. Daniel Rochford noted that the current long-term financial plan allowed for a financially sustainable HRA despite having been compelled by Government to reduce rent by 1 % every year throughout a 4-year period commencing 2016. The effect of this was to remove around £17m of income from the HRA which could otherwise have been spent on improving the condition of our homes. Sukvinder Kalsi (Director of Finance) added that it was intended for the rent to increase by CPI plus 1% until 2024/25 beyond which the future rent policy had yet to be worked out. In the past, the Local Authorities had been lobbying extensively for some sort of national grant to protect council housing and its services. The gap between the proposed rent increase of 4.4% and the CPI of up to 12% had to be impartially filled by the Central Government.
Noting that there was an increasing demand for social/affordable housing, Councillor David Morton sought clarification of the two as some of the latter were not so affordable. He also noted with concern that the type of social housing on demand was those with 3 – 4 bedrooms while the supply was mainly 1 – 2 bedrooms. Mark Lowthian (Interim Director of Housing & Transformation) noted that the Council met the increasing demand for social/affordable housing through, for example, shared ownership, private sector leasing and temporary accommodation. He agreed that the 3 to 4-bedroom properties should be developed to supplement the housing stock as they yielded higher value for money. Nevertheless, he undertook to brief the Committee with more details on Council’s aspirations in housing development to meet the increasing demand at the next meeting in March 2023. The Chair welcomed the discussion of “New Built Development Plan” at the next meeting.
ACTION: Mark Lowthian
Jon Pickstone (Strategic Director of Economy) noted that there were about 3,000 people waiting for social housing and the average waiting time was about 10 years.
Noting that £2.2 m had been set aside in the HRA General Reserves for temporary actions in 2023/24 to deal with, inter alia, damp & mould, Councillor Morton noted that many council properties were badly affected by mould. He asked if the amount was sufficient to treat the pressing problem. Sukvinder Kalsi said he believed detailed works after carrying out a thorough assessment on the extent of the damp & mould were underway. The Authority would keep the position under review and if necessary, allocate more resources from the HRA to deal with this important health issue.
Councillor Morton reflected the concern of leaseholders ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Date of Next Meeting
To note the date of the next meeting:
· 20 March 2023