Venue: Committee Room 1, Council Offices, The Burys, Godalming. View directions
Contact: Fiona Cameron Democratic Services Officer
The Minutes of the meeting of the Housing Overview & Scrutiny Committee held on 4 July 2017 are attached, and Members are asked to confirm them as a correct record.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 4 July 2017 were confirmed as a correct record and signed.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTES
To receive apologies for absence and note any substitutions.
Apologies for absence were received from Hugh Wagstaff, Head of Housing Operations.
Cllr Carole King, Portfolio Holder for Housing was present at the meeting.
DECLARATIONS OF INTERESTS
To receive from Members declarations of interests in relation to any items included on the agenda for this meeting, in accordance with Waverley’s Code of Local Government Conduct.
There were no declarations in relation to items on the agenda.
QUESTIONS BY MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
The Chairman to respond to any written questions received from members of the public in accordance with Procedure Rule 10.
The deadline for submission of written questions for this meeting is 5pm on Tuesday 12 September 2017.
There were no questions from members of the public.
This report provides a summary of the Housing service performance over the first quarter of the financial year. The report details the team’s performance against the indicators that fall within the remit of the Housing Overview & Scrutiny Committee. It also provides a summary of customer feedback data.
The Committee has the opportunity to comment and scrutinise the presented performance data. In addition the Committee may identify future committee reporting requirements regarding performance management.
It is recommended that the Housing Overview & Scrutiny Committee:
1. considers the performance figures, as set out in Annexe 1, and agrees any observations or recommendations about performance it wishes to make to the Executive,
2. considers the customer feedback data and agrees any observations or recommendations about performance it wishes to make to the Executive, and
3. considers scope of work and identifies areas for the Committee future workplan.
Annalisa Howson, Service Improvement Manager, introduced the Performance Management Report on key performance indicators for the first quarter of 2017/18 (April – June 2017).
The Housing Service had performed well in the first quarter of 2017/18, with only three indicators missing their target.
The void re-let performance target of 20 working days continued to be challenging. The average for the quarter was 22 days, which showed an improvement over the previous two quarters, and 33 out of 63 homes had been re-let within the target time which demonstrated that this was a realistic target to work towards. The Committee was advised that the performance for August had been 16 days.
As usual, a number of factors had combined to result in delays in re-letting homes, some of which impacted on the time taken to bring the property up to re-let standard, and some which delayed the sign-up of new tenants once the property had been passed back to the Council. There had been a number of refusals by applicants on some homes, and action had been taken against applicants who refused three offers by temporarily suspending their ability to bid on properties. A number of properties were restricted to older tenants which limited the number of applicants able to bid. Given the demand for council housing, a review of age-restricted housing would be undertaken to see if it was possible to relax these restrictions.
Unusually, the rent collection performance had missed its target in the first quarter of 2017/18. The rent collection team had an excellent record for rent collection, and this quarter’s performance was expected to be a one-off occurrence resulting from the high number of tenants in credit on their rent accounts and who had adjusted their rent payments accordingly.
Whilst the customer perception of responsive repairs jobs ‘fixed first time’ had dipped slightly in the first quarter, there had not been any impact on the overall satisfaction with the service which was at 92%. Officers continued to work with the contractor to improve performance through accurate diagnosis of repairs and appropriately prepared operatives.
Overall, the number of complaints received by the Housing Service had shown a significant drop in the first quarter, driven in particular by a fall in the number of complaints about the responsive repairs service.
The Committee was pleased to see the overall good performance, and particularly the high number of compliments received by the service, recognising that people were generally more inclined to complain than to praise.
The Committee noted that tenants’ perceptions of whether a repair had been ‘fixed first time’ was very subjective and could depend on their understanding of the fault and what was required to put it right. A lot of work had been done to map the customer journey from initial phone call to report a problem through to resolution, and this had informed the way in which customer satisfaction data was collected. Follow-up calls were made to customers who were particularly dissatisfied to establish exactly what the ... view the full minutes text for item 16.
To provide the Committee with an awareness and understanding of the IT systems used by the Housing Service, and to provide information regarding past challenges, future plans and aspirations for the Service regarding IT.
It is recommended that the Housing Overview & Scrutiny Committee considers the information provided, and agrees any observations or matters to be followed up by the Committee.
Annalisa Howson introduced the agenda report that explained the range of IT systems used in Housing, and outlined IT development plans within the Housing Service.
The Committee had raised some concerns at their meeting in July during the discussion of the Waverley Scrutiny Group’s report on void re-lets, regarding the effectiveness of IT systems, and in particular the interfaces between key systems including those of the council’s contractors.
The Housing Service managed a huge amount of data of different types, relating to the properties the council owned, the tenants and leaseholders, and the interactions and transactions between the council and tenants, leaseholders and Housing applicants. To do this, Housing had a number of specialist IT systems which were used in conjunction with various Waverley corporate systems.
The Committee was reassured that there was an effective interface between Waverley’s Orchard system and Mears’ MCM as a way of sharing information on responsive repairs and voids works. However, it did rely on care being taken with data input. The Committee was also pleased to learn that there was a Housing IT development work plan that was reviewed regularly and ensured that all development requests were assessed and prioritised against the objectives of reducing manual handling of data, maximising the use of Orchard as the central IT system for Housing, and improving tenant satisfaction.
Cllr Frost expressed concern about the length of time it was taking to implement the interface between Orchard and Agresso. This had been promised for a long time and needed to be prioritised to streamline processes and enable more efficient working. Peter Vickers, Head of Finance, advised that the interface was part of a wider upgrade of Agresso and was now in testing; it would go live in the next month or so.
The Committee noted that the Digital Platform would be the next IT development priority. This was a corporate project that would improve the range of online, self-service functions for those residents who preferred to interact with the Council remotely. Housing was piloting the digital platform, which in the first phase would allow tenants to view their rent account balance and details. In the long term it was planned for residents to access other council services via the digital platform.
Cllr Le Gal asked how the Housing Service was preparing for the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulations in 2018, which would require organisations to have clear policies and procedures, supported by IT systems, to ensure the security of personal data.
Damian Roberts, Strategic Director of Frontline Services agreed that this was a major issue for the whole Council, not just Housing, and therefore a corporate GDPR Project Group had been established, led by Graeme Clark, Strategic Director for Finance & Resources. Whilst a lot of work was required to ensure that Waverley was ready for GDPR, Waverley was part of the Public Services Network, the government’s high-performance network, and had implemented various measures to achieve PSN accreditation. Data-sharing with other government agencies was covered by ... view the full minutes text for item 17.
Hugh Wagstaff, Head of Housing Operations, to provide a verbal update on Surrey County Council’s proposals to decommission all Housing Related Support funding, including funding for services for older people, in order to achieve savings in the Adult Social Care budget.
Following an 8-week consultation with providers (June-August 2017) the Surrey County Council Cabinet will be considering recommendations on the proposals at its meeting on 26 September 2017.
The Surrey County Council Adults and Health Select Committee reviewed the proposals on 14 July 2017, and expressed concern in respect of the long term impact of the proposals. The attached response to the Select Committee’s detailed recommendations was provided at their recent meeting (on 4 September) by SCC officers, and may be helpful to inform the Housing Overview & Scrutiny Committee’s consideration of a response by Waverley Borough Council.
Andrew Smith, Head of Strategic Housing and Delivery, provided a verbal update to the Committee on the Surrey County Council’s (SCC) proposals to decommission Housing Related Support funding, including funding for services to older people, in order to achieve savings in the Adult Social Care budget, and the implications for Waverley services.
The Committee noted that following an 8-week consultation with providers (June-August 2017) the SCC Cabinet would be considering recommendations on the proposals at its meeting on 26 September 2017. The agenda for this meeting had just been published, which set out the detail of the final recommendations:
1. SCC to no longer provide funding for Housing Related Support for people with learning, physical and sensory disabilities and services for older people; and
2. SCC to continue to fund Housing Related Support for the socially excluded – those with mental health issues, those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, ex-offenders and the gypsy and traveller community.
Assuming that the recommendations were agreed by the SCC Cabinet on 26 September, Andrew Smith explained the implications for Waverley services:
· Housing Related Support provided funding for Waverley to employ a manager at each of the 8 Sheltered Housing schemes. The managers supported tenants by ensuring a safe and secure environment including estate management, offering advice and information, and helping to access community services such as day and health care.
· It was not permitted to use the Housing Revenue Account (rents) to pay for this service.
· Residents would be able to request an assessment from Adult Social Care of their care and support needs to see if they qualify for support under the Care Act eligibility criteria. It was not expected that many Waverley tenants would qualify for this.
· Work was underway to model the finances of the sheltered housing schemes and develop options to secure a sustainable service going forward. However, there was a likelihood of redundancies arising from the reduction in funding.
Waverley also received Housing Related Support in relation to provision of homelessness services to social excluded residents. Whilst the funding for this service would be significantly reduced, it would not be cut entirely. The funding was for accommodation-based support and floating support. Funding for accommodation-based support helped to fund 2 beds in the Woking night-shelter for Waverley clients with complex needs. Floating support was currently provided through the Riverside (a ‘third sector’ organisation) in Guildford, but consideration was being given to other ways of providing a service for Waverley residents.
The Chairman invited Adrian Waller and Brenda Greenslade from the Tenants’ Panel to brief the Committee on the work that they had done to support sheltered housing tenants during the consultation.
Adrian advised that the Tenants’ Panel had attended the SCC consultation event at each of the sheltered housing schemes, and had produced a comprehensive report (attached to these minutes) that highlighted the concerns of tenants and their families. The managers provided an important service to vulnerable older tenants who, with that low level of support, ... view the full minutes text for item 18.
Ockford Ridge - Site visit feedback
The Chairman to introduce, and invite observations from the Committee; and for the Committee to agree how it would like to monitor the progress of the Ockford Ridge regeneration project going forward.
The Chairman reported back on the site visit to Ockford Ridge that had taken place on 1 August. He had been joined by Cllrs Carol Cockburn, Patricia Ellis and Liz Townsend, and officers.
It had been a very informative visit, and Members had been very pleased to see the progress being made on Site D. Building the show homes had been a very good tactic – they had provided a taster of what was to come, and a clear demonstration of Waverley’s commitment to the project.
A personal observation was made about the show homes and the large roof space, that tenants were not allowed to use. This seemed to be a waste of space, and had prompted a discussion about the design standards that Waverley uses to guide its housing development work and whether these should be reviewed.
Cllr Cockburn noted that it was clear that officers had reflected on experiences so far of development management and community consultation, and had identified lessons that needed to be learned. It was quite hard to identify a suitable topic for the Committee to scrutinise that would lead to some useful and timely recommendations.
Whilst Cllr Frost recognised that there had been great improvements in the project management, she was keen for the Committee to play a role in monitoring the key elements of the project, for example the budgets and spend, slippage against timetable, risks, and issues. This was Waverley’s biggest housing development project in many years, and there was a considerable reputational risk in relation to the council’s ability to effectively project manage the scheme and complete on time and in budget.
The Committee agreed to add an Ockford Ridge progress summary to the work programme as a standing item, and to discuss a potential review of the Waverley design standards under the next agenda item.
To provide members with an overview of the Design Standards and Specifications adopted in 2014 for new council homes and outline a proposal for review of these standards by the Committee both in context of ‘Site C’ at Ockford Ridge and other future council housing developments.
That the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee undertakes a review of the Waverley Design Standard Standards and Specification Guidelines, in the context of both Ockford Ridge Site C proposals and other Waverley Borough Council housing development schemes.
Louisa Blundell, Housing Development Manager, introduced the report which set out the background to the development in 2013 of the Council’s design standards and specifications for new housing developments by the Council. The design standards took account of the Homes and Communities Agency Design and Quality Standards, the Housing Quality Indicators, the consultation by the Department of Communities and Local Government on Housing Standards, Waverley’s Parking Standards, and feedback from residents on their new housing association homes. The standards were adopted in 2014.
The guidelines outlined the standards and specifications that the Council aspires to achieve when delivering its new homes and provides the starting point for all designs. However, they also indicate that a balance should be struck between meeting all standards and specifications and the wider housing objective, particularly where there are financial and practical constraints. All designs were assessed on a site-by-site basis and
conflicting priorities addressed according the context of that particular development, including the needs of that area and the profile of future tenants. This ensured the best possible scheme could be delivered within financial and practical constraints.
Given that the Council now had a great deal more experience of housing development, it was timely to review the design standards; and the observation made about the ‘waste’ of roof space was a good example of the fresh perspective that Members could provide. The review had direct relevance to the Ockford Ridge project, as proposals for Site C would be brought forward in 2018, and the revised guidelines would inform the instructions to the architects for the detailed planning application.
The Committee agreed to undertake a review of Waverley’s Housing Design & Standards Specification, to inform the planning application for Ockford Ridge Site C and other Waverley developments.
The Committee noted that the scope and timetable for the review would be prepared by Alex Sargeson in discussion with Louisa Blundell. The following Members were appointed to the Task & Finish Group to carry out the review: Cllrs Tony Gordon-Smith, Richard Seaborne, Liz Townsend, Patricia Ellis, and Adrian Waller (Tenants’ Panel).
The Housing Overview & Scrutiny Committee, along with the O&S Coordinating Board, is responsible for managing the Committee’s work programme.
The work programme (attached) includes items agreed at the O&S Coordinating Board and takes account of items identified on the latest Executive Forward Programme (Annexe 1) as due to come forward for decision.
A Scrutiny Tracker has been produced to assist the Committee in monitoring the recommendations that have been agreed at its meetings. The Tracker details the latest position on the implementation of these recommendations and is attached at Annexe 2.
Members are invited to consider their work programme and make any comments and/or amendments they consider necessary, including suggestions for any additional topics that the Committee may wish to add to its work programme.
The Committee reviewed its forward work programme, and noted that the provisional agenda for November 2017 included:
· Homelessness Reduction
· Housing Strategy
· Private Sector Housing – a general overview and the Home Improvement Policy
· Update on the impact of SCC decommissioning of Housing Related Support – plans for services to socially excluded homeless and Sheltered Housing Schemes
· Ockford Ridge Regeneration programme – progress summary & highlights
The Committee noted that the Value for Money & Customer Service OS Committee had set up a Task & Finish Group to look at slippage in the capital monitoring programme, and had asked the Housing OS Committee to nominate a member to join the Group, in view of the extensive capital programme in the Housing Revenue Account. Cllr Richard Seaborne agreed to join this Task & Finish Group.