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OVERVIEW _ SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

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									                    Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel – 14th January, 2010


            Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel
                                 Thursday, 14th January, 2010

                                               MINUTES

     PRESENT: Councillors Costello (Chairman), Ann Chapman, Maureen Crosby,
     Noori, Randall, Sharma and Stafford.

     CO-OPTED MEMBER : Hitesh Tailor.

     ALSO PRESENT: Councillors Aslam and W. Brooks.

     COUNCIL OFFICERS IN ATTENDANCE:

     Sara Denton          (Acting Temporary Accommodation Manager)
     Lynne Duval          (Interim Temporary Accommodation Manager)
     Keith Fraser         (Head of Scrutiny)
     Laurie Lyle          (Committee Administrator)

1.   Apologies

     Apologies were received from Councillor M. Singh.

2.   Urgent Matters
     (Agenda Item 2)

     There were none.

3.   Matters to be Considered in Private
     (Agenda Item 3)

     There were none.

4.   Personal and Prejudicial Interests and Dispensations

     The Chairman declared an interest in agenda item 6 („2010 Temporary
     Accommodation‟), by virtue of him being a leaseholder of a property in the
     Rectory Park Estate, Northolt, and that he has rented out this property to „Ealing
     Housing Ltd,‟ who currently have a temporary accommodation tenant in that
     property.

     Councillor Maureen Crosby declared an interest in agenda item 6 („2010
     Temporary Accommodation‟), by virtue of her Membership of the „Rectory Park
     Steering Group.‟

     Councillor Randall declared an interest in agenda item 6 („2010 Temporary
     Accommodation‟), by virtue of him being a leaseholder of a property in Acton.

5.   Minutes of the Last Meeting
     (Agenda Item 5)


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                         Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel – 14th January, 2010


     Resolved : That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 5 th November,
     2009 be agreed as a true and correct record, subject to the following
     amendments:

        (i)         Page 3, paragraph 10, first sentence insert the words “the Panel”
                    between the words “that” and “would.”

        (ii)        Page 3, paragraph 10, second sentence insert the word “emphasis”
                    between the words “greater” and “to.”

        (iii)       Page 5, paragraph 4, second sentence insert the word “younger”
                    between the words “some” and “tenants.”

        (iv)        Page 5, paragraph 4, second sentence insert the words “including
                    families” between the words “tenants” and “with.”

        (v)         Page 5, paragraph 4, second sentence, delete the words …”with
                    addiction and mental health problems.”

        (vi)        Page 5, paragraph 4, third sentence, delete the word ”sheltered.”

        (vii)       Page 7, paragraph 9, third sentence, delete the word ”believed,” and
                    insert the word..”believes.”

        (viii)      Page 8, paragraph 1, add at end of final sentence the words..”in
                    partnership with English Heritage.”

6.   2010 Temporary Accommodation Target
     (Agenda Item 6)

     Sara Denton, the Council‟s Acting Temporary Accommodation Manager, and
     Lynne Duval, the Council‟s Interim Temporary Accommodation Manager,
     attended the meeting, and presented a report on behalf of the Assistant Director
     of Housing, which reviewed the actions the Council are undertaking to reduce
     the number of households in temporary accommodation in the borough.

     The report advised that Ealing‟s strategy to reduce reliance on temporary
     accommodation comprises several elements, including:

                   Prevention of homelessness to reduce number from homeless
                    households
                   Maximising the supply of social housing to enable homelessness
                    demand to be met
                   Using private sector housing to prevent homelessness or meet
                    demand from households in priority need
                   Making the best use of supported housing for homeless people
                   Reducing the number of existing private sector leased properties by
                    converting to assured shorthold tenancies.
                   Promote qualifying offers




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                Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel – 14th January, 2010


The report noted that numbers in temporary accommodation have decreased
over the last year, and as at June 2009 there were 1763 households in
temporary accommodation.

Since then the impact of actions undertaken has seen a continued downturn in
the number of households in temporary accommodation.
As at 30 November 2009 there were 1567 households in temporary
accommodation a reduction of 206 households since June.

It was noted that a further reduction of 493 households will be required by
December 2010, to enable the Council to meet the target an average reduction
of 38 households per month.

The report highlighted that the work carried out in the last quarter has shown
the largest reduction of temporary accommodation, in October 2009 there was a
reduction in temporary accommodation of 43 households, which is the largest
reduction in a single month so far this year.

The report also noted that officers have produced an effective demand and
supply model which controls the flows into and out of temporary
accommodation. Key measures of success include increased use of private
sector lettings, a reduction in homeless acceptances, a reduced use of bed and
breakfast, and households being rehoused into social housing.

The report advised that the current economic downturn has resulted in a greater
availability of private sector lettings, and this coupled with the Local Housing
Allowance in Ealing, has resulted in housing staff being in a position to
successfully place households in the private sector at the first point of contact to
prevent homelessness.

It was noted that the Council have housed 231 households into Assured
Shorthold tenancies since July 2009, which has been a combination of new
applicants and households leaving temporary accommodation. During the
same period the Council rehoused 159 households from temporary
accommodation into social housing.

The report advised that in 2008/9, Ealing accepted as homeless 530 cases, an
average of around 44 cases per calendar month, although there was a
reduction in acceptances in June to October 2008, when the Borough was
making use of private sector leased properties as a prevention measure, and
had a „Rent Deposit Scheme,‟ in place

It was noted that homeless acceptances have fallen significantly since then, and
it is anticipated that figures will continue to reduce to below 100 each quarter
between now and 31 March 2010 and beyond, which will again reduce the flow
further into temporary accommodation, and will see bed and breakfast
accommodation reduce further.

The Chairman thanked the officers for presenting the report and invited
Members to comment and ask questions.

In response to a question from Councillor Stafford, Lynne Duval said that based
on current projections, she was confident that the Council can sustain the

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                     Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel – 14th January, 2010


     current level of performance, and achieve the target of an average reduction of
     38 households per month in temporary accommodation.

     In response to a question from the Chairman, Lynne Duval said that the Council
     were not at this time creating any new private sector leasing arrangements.
     She said that any private arrangements were probably as a result of „Direct
     Lets,‟ where agreements are entered into privately between the landlord and the
     resident.

     In response to a point raised by the Chairman concerning homelessness in the
     borough, Councillor Brooks, Cabinet portfolio holder for housing said that the
     system for reviewing homelessness cases had changed fundamentally over
     recent years.

     He said that currently when a person presents themselves to the Council as
     homeless, that person is assessed, and the Council attempts to identify their
     needs, and provide them with a list of options, which is likely to prove far more
     suitable than the person simply waiting for a secure tenancy.

     He said that this approach, was a change of emphasis from a „silo‟ based to a
     more pro-active system, and was proving to be very successful.

     The Chairman said that he welcomed the progress made in reducing the
     number of households in temporary accommodation in the borough, in
     particular the achievement of the target of an average reduction of 38
     households per month.

     The Chairman said that he also welcomed the change of emphasis from a „silo‟
     based to a pro-active approach to homelessness, and he concluded
     consideration of the item by proposing, and it was unanimously agreed that the
     Assistant Director Housing submit a further update report to the Panel in
     September/October 2010.

     Resolved : (i) That the Panel note the progress made in reducing the number of
     households in temporary accommodation in the borough, in particular the
     achievement of the target of an average reduction of 38 households per month,
     and the change of emphasis from a „silo‟ based to a pro-active approach being
     adopted by the Council, to prevent homelessness;

     (ii) That the Assistant Director, Housing be requested to submit a further update
     report to the Panel in September/October 2010; and to include views on theNI
     156 target for 2011 and beyond.

7.   Ealing Homes Improvement Plan
     (Agenda Item 7)

     The Head of Scrutiny submitted a report updating Members on the development
     with regard to the Ealing Homes Action Plan which seeks to address, and
     implement the recommendations made by the Audit Commission in 2008.

     The report gave details of the progress made in respect of the Ealing Homes
     Improvement Progress report, attached at Appendix 1 of the report, the
     Improvement Plan attached as Appendix 2 of the report, and a summary of the
                                                      4
               Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel – 14th January, 2010


annual survey of tenants and leaseholders carried out by an independent
organisation, attached as Appendix 2 and 3 of the report.

The Panel was also addressed by representatives of Ealing Homes, who
attended the meeting, including the Chief Executive of Ealing Homes, Susmita
Sen.

She said that the Ealing Homes Management team have taken full ownership of
the improvement plan, and intend to drive the Audit Commission‟s
recommendations through to completion.

She said that currently 38 of 41 projects arising from the Audit Commissions
recommendations have been completed, 23 of these projects are categorised
as „green‟ status, or on schedule to be completed, 14 are „amber‟ status, where
there is significant risk of the target being missed, and one project, which has
„red‟ status, where the target date has been missed, however progress was
being made in completing the project.

The Chairman thanked the Ealing Homes representatives for attending the
meeting and appraising the Panel. He added that he would proceed by
focussing first on the Ealing Homes Improvement report, followed by the
residents satisfaction survey.

The Chairman invited Members to comment and ask questions on the Ealing
Homes Improvement Plan.

Councillor Stafford said that he was concerned that some of the projects listed
in the improvement plan as „green‟ status, had not yet been completed,
therefore their categorisation as green projects was dubious.

Councillor Chapman added that she was of the opinion that any target dates
missed, should be re-categorised as „red‟ status.

The Chairman said that it was important that the information in reports such as
these are accurate, as otherwise the public can be mislead.

In response to a question from the Chairman, Councillor Brooks, said that he
was confident that the current management team were competent enough to
take ownership of the improvement plan and successfully drive through the
projects arising from the Audit Commission‟s recommendations.

The Chairman invited Members to comment and ask questions on the
Residents Satisfaction Survey.

In response to a question from the Chairman, a representative of Ealing Homes
advised that 72% of tenants surveyed had said they were satisfied with the
services provided by Ealing Homes, 70% said they were satisfied with the
overall quality of their home and 72% said that their rent represents good value
for money.

He said that this figure of 72% was in the upper quartile of organisations
benchmarked in London, however the upper quartile figure nationally, is closer
to 80%, which is the figure to that Ealing Homes must aspire to.
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               Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel – 14th January, 2010




In response to a supplementary question from the Chairman, he added that
leaseholder satisfaction results show that a lower proportion of leaseholders
than tenants, just 43%, are satisfied with the services provided by Ealing
Homes.

He said that this pattern of lower leaseholder satisfaction is consistent with
other landlords across London. He added that the upper quartile figure for the
London area was 48% and in response Ealing Homes have identified the need
to improve services to leaseholders, as one of its priorities for 2010/11.

In response to a question from Councillor Chapman, the Ealing Homes
representative advised that approximately 1,044 tenants and 458 leaseholders
had responded to the residents satisfaction survey, producing a sampling
margin of error of less than 3%. He said that a postal survey had been used
and that the sample size was 2,315, selected at random.

Councillor Chapman said that the results of the survey appeared overly positive,
based on her experiences of similar surveys she had seen over the years. She
said that she would have reasonably expected to see far more dissatisfaction
expressed by residents, than seen in the survey commissioned by Ealing
Homes.

Councillor Stafford said that he was concerned that the overall level of tenants
satisfaction appeared to be decreasing.

In response, the Ealing Homes representative said that the area of repairs and
maintenance had experienced some significant problems recently, and that
much of the level of dissatisfaction expressed by residents could be attributed to
complaints concerning repairs, and the fact that the Council‟s „Decent Homes
Programme,‟ had been placed on hold for approximately for 15 months.

The Chairman said that he was also concerned at the apparent disparity
between the results of the survey from respondents in the East of the borough,
to those in the West of the borough, who appeared to be doing far worse.

In response, the Ealing Homes representative said that this was an issue that
had been identified, and was currently being addressed by the Ealing homes
management team through a series of meetings with staff.

In response to a further point by the Chairman, regarding Ealing Homes only
matching or bettering the performance of 2 out of 18 organisations nationally,
the Ealing Homes representative said that London based organisations, such as
Ealing Homes tended by nature, to be larger, complex, and more multi-ethnic,
therefore naturally more susceptible to being afflicted by the types of problems
not encountered by other organisations throughout the country.

In concluding consideration of the item the Chairman reiterated the concerns
expressed by Members at the level of information in the residents satisfaction
survey.


                                                6
                     Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel – 14th January, 2010


     The Chairman said that the Panel were unanimous in their concern that the
     report had not fully reflected residents views, and tended to focus only on the
     positive feedback at the expense of areas where residents might reasonably
     have been expected to show greater levels of dissatisfaction.

     The Chairman said that in future, he expected to see surveys such as these
     show the top ten areas of satisfaction as well as the bottom ten.

     The Chairman expressed similar dissatisfaction at the level of information
     contained in the 2008/09 Housemark ALMO benchmarking report, and
     requested that officers produce the Environmental Health Annual budget for
     next year at the next meeting of the Panel.
     Resolved: (i) That the Panel notes the report on the implementation of the
     „Ealing Homes 2009/11 Improvement Plan,‟ and the projects to address the
     Audit Commission‟s recommendations from the 2008 inspection;

     (ii) That Members concerns regarding the absence of information in the report
     relating to residents dissatisfaction, and doubts to the „green‟ status given to
     some of the projects in the improvement plan also be noted, and request that
     officers review these;

     (iii) That officers produce an Environmental Health Annual Budget for next year
     at the next meeting of the Panel.

8.   Update on LINk and Co-option Arrangements
     (Agenda Item 8)

     The Panel considered a report by the Head of Scrutiny which provided
     information on the organisation LINK+ and invited Members to consider
     appointing a member of the LINk+ to the Panel.

     The Head of Scrutiny advised that whilst LINk+ is a pilot, the Panel will operate
     as if there was a statutory relationship. He referred Members to page 3 of his
     report which he said makes a number of suggestions as to how the two bodies
     will work together.

     The report proposed that the Panel Chairman works together in consultation
     with the Vice-Chairman, in order that the Panel can respond in a timely fashion
     to referrals, if no suitable meeting is scheduled, and that the LINk+ be able to
     suggest topics for the Panel to consider.

     The Panel was addressed by Nigel Hamilton, LINk Consultant who introduced
     Mr Gordon Coventry, a supported Housing service user and a member of the
     LINK project group. Mr Hamilton proposed that the Panel co-opt Gordon
     Coventry to represent the views of supported housing users.

     The Chairman said that he welcomed the report, and the suggestions on how
     the two bodies will work together. The Chairman said that he was also happy to
     agree the proposal to co-opt Mr Gordon Coventry from „LINk + Project‟ as a
     non-voting Member, for the remainder of the municipal year.

     Members unanimously agreed the Chairman‟s proposal.
                                                      7
                     Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel – 14th January, 2010



     Resolved: (i) That the Panel Chairman, in consultation with the Vice-chairman,
     be authorised to acknowledge any referral received from LINk+ and, where
     desirable, give a preliminary indication of how the Panel is likely to deal with the
     referral;

     (ii) That the Panel agrees to co-opt Mr Gordon Coventry from „LINk + Project‟ as
     a non-voting Member, for the remainder of the municipal year.

9.   Panel Work Programme 2009/2010
     (Agenda Item 9)

     The Head of Scrutiny submitted a report which sought Members agreement to
     items for consideration by the Panel at its future meetings, in particular the
     agenda for the next meeting of the Panel, on 4th March, 2010.

     Following consideration of the Head of Scrutiny‟s report, the Chairman
     proposed and it was unanimously agreed that the Panel agree the following:-

     That the Panel agree the Work Programme, and the following items for the next
     meeting :-

           Panel Annual Report

           Future Topics for Scrutiny

     That the Panel agrees to consider „Tuberculosis in Social Housing,‟ at its next
     meeting; and that the Chairman identify an appropriate regeneration issue for
     this meeting.

     That the Panel agree to recommend to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee
     that there continues to be a scrutiny of housing issues in the next municipal
     year (2010/2011).

     That Members of the Panel visit one of the estates, in line with the
     recommendations from the previous Ealing Homes Repairs Specialist Scrutiny
     Panel.

     Resolved : (i) That the Panel agree the Work Programme and the following
     items for the next meeting :-

           Panel Annual Report

           Future Topics for Scrutiny

     (ii) That the Panel agrees to consider „Tuberculosis in Social Housing,‟ at its
     next meeting; and for the Chairman to identify an appropriate regeneration
     issue for this meeting

     (iii) To recommend to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee that there
     continues to be a scrutiny of housing issues in the next municipal year
     (2010/2011).

                                                      8
                     Housing and Regeneration Standing Scrutiny Panel – 14th January, 2010


      (iv) That members visit one of the estates as this was one of the
      recommendations that came out of the Ealing homes repairs specialist scrutiny
      panel.

10.   Date of Next Meeting
      (Agenda Item 10)

      Resolved: That the next meeting of the Panel take place on Thursday, 4 th
      March, 2010.


                                        Councillor Costello
                                            Chairman


      The meeting concluded at 9.05pm




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