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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting - 30th July 2012

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety

 

Welsh Government House to Homes Scheme

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To agree that the Vale of Glamorgan Council takes the financial lead for the Cardiff and Vale Region in the Welsh Government's Houses to Home Scheme, and

2.             To amend the Private Sector Housing Renewal Policy 2011-13 to include the Houses to Home loan

Recommendations

3.             THAT the following recommendations are agreed by Cabinet

·               The Vale of Glamorgan Council takes the financial lead for the Cardiff and Vale Region in the Welsh Government's Houses to Home Scheme

·               The Private Sector Housing Renewal Policy 2011-13 is amended to include the Houses to Home loan

·               Vale of Glamorgan Council draws down funding from Welsh Government's Houses to Homes Scheme

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To enable the Council to act as 'banker' through taking the financial lead in the Cardiff and Vale Region and secure the capital funding resource Welsh Government has made available for the Houses to Homes Scheme

2.             To enable the Council to offer the Houses to Homes loan through the Housing Renewal Policy 2011-13, and

3.             To obtain Welsh Government capital funding to enable the reuse of empty properties throughout the Vale.

 

Background

4.             In February 2012, the Welsh Government launched the Houses into Homes scheme. A loan fund for Wales of £10 million designed to help return empty properties into use. Based on the level of stock in each local authority area, the Vale’s 'share' of this funding is approximately £420,000.

5.             To access this funding, local authorities have to work collaboratively utilising the six regions model. In April 2012, Cabinet adopted an Empty Property Strategy and agreed the Council would provide the strategic lead for the Houses to Homes loan scheme on behalf of the Cardiff and Vale region.

6.             At the time of the cabinet report in April 2012, Welsh Government were considering a host authority to administer the funding and loans on behalf of all authorities in Wales. However, a host authority was not identified.  The funding now must be administered on a regional level and Welsh Government is requesting financial lead authorities for each region.

7.             Welsh Government is clear grant funding can only be claimed on the basis on need. Due to the regional collaboration, the Welsh Government has agreed for grant claims to be made on loan applications received and not on loan funding paid out.  It is envisaged that by the time the money is paid to the lead authority and disseminated to individual authorities the individual loans will have completed the application process and be ready to be paid.

8.             Welsh Government has set the terms and conditions for the individual loans to be offered through this scheme.  They have also provided for local authorities to use standard documentation to implement the scheme to include application forms, standard letters, procedure flows, guidance notes, and the loan legal agreements.  The Welsh Government is also working with the Welsh Local Government Association to assist authorities to implement the scheme which includes free training on processing loan applications.

Relevant Issues and Options

9.             There are two main options available on how the Houses to Homes loans can be administered across the Cardiff and Vale region. 

·               One local authority undertaking all the administration work for the loan funding and administration, or

·               One authority acting in a 'banker' role and each authority administering their own loans.

10.        It is recommended that the second option is adopted and each authority will administer their own loans within their existing resources and a 'banker' is identified for the role of administering the regional funding.  This 'banker' will become the financial lead for the region.

11.        Welsh Government has acknowledged that models will differ across regions and therefore the roles and responsibility of the financial lead.  Welsh Government officers have indicated they would support the pathway the Vale and Cardiff are considering.

12.        Advice from Welsh Government confirms that the role of the “banker” for the region in its simplest form this will mean;

·               collating information, on a regional basis, about loan applications received

·               compiling that information into a claim form that is submitted to the Welsh Government.

·               The Welsh Government will release the funding to the 'banker',

·               The “banker” will then release the relevant funding based on applications received to individual authorities in that region.

·               On repayment of the loan, the money will come back to the 'banker' to be reallocated in loans according to the collaborative working arrangements of the region.

·               where an authority is acting as a 'banker' only, for audit purposes that authority must show it has taken reasonable steps to allocate funding to each authority, but will not be audited or responsible for the loan administration in other authorities in its region.

13.        The Welsh Government Terms and Conditions of the grant award also requires the loan funding to be recycled and used to fund further loans on repayment.

14.        The authority taking on the role of the financial lead, or 'banker', will need to agree collaborative working agreements with its neighbour to ensure the terms and condition of the Welsh Government grant can be met.

15.        The collaborative agreement will need to cover the arrangements for operating the loan scheme in addition to the flow of funding and liability.  The collaborative agreement will include;

·               Agreement that Council's will be responsible for their own administration of individual loans

·               Agreement that those loans must be administered within the terms and conditions of the Houses to Home scheme

·               Agreement that House to Home loans on repayment are returned to the Houses to Home regional loan fund for reallocation

·               Agreement on the allocation of regional funding between the two authorities

·               Agreement to share information on loan applications, approval and repayments within agreed timescales

·               Agreement that Councils accept liability for the authority's actions that they or their staff takes that triggers a Notification Event and repayment of the grant to Welsh Government.

·               Agreement that Councils accept liability of losses to the grant funding due to negligent or fraudulent activity by their staff

16.        As agreed by Cabinet in April 2012, the Vale of Glamorgan Council is the strategic lead authority for the region.  As part of this role, officers in the authority are required to collate information on loan applications received, awarded and repaid across the region.  Therefore, this element of role is already being undertaken

17.        Resources within the finance team will be required to draw down the funding from the Welsh Government and monitor the funding within the region's Homes to Homes pot. 

18.        Resources will also be required from Legal Services to help Public Protection administer individual loans and secure the legal charge.

19.        The Welsh Government has stated there is no revenue support from them to administer the loans on a regional or individual level.  The only funding available to assist the delivery of the scheme will be from the set application fee collected with each loan application.  This fee will not cover the full cost of implementing the scheme, regardless of which Council takes the financial lead in the Region.  However, to assist in the implementation, Public Protection has created a temporary post within it's Environmental Health Housing team.  The post will be able to assist finance and legal colleagues in the implementation of the Houses to Home scheme concerning the collation and monitoring role and paperwork administration.

20.        In addition to agreeing the financial lead for the Region, the Council must also amend it's Private Sector Housing Renewal Policy 2011-13 to provide the legal power to administer these loans under the Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002.  This amendment is attached in Appendix 1 and will be inserted into the current policy.  No consultation has been undertaken on this assistance as the eligibility criteria and terms and conditions of the loan are set as part of the Welsh Government Houses to Home scheme and Grant Funding Award.

21.        Amendment to the Housing Renewal Policy 2011-13

22.        In 2011, the Council adopted the Housing Renewal Policy 2011-13.  This policy not only provides the legal provision to provide assistance to private owners to repair and adapt their home, but it also details what that assistance is.

23.        The amendment to the Housing Renewal Policy detailed in Appendix 1 provides details on the loans the Council will offer to owners through the Houses to Homes scheme.  This amendment will provided the legal mechanism to offer these individuals loans.  The amendment adds to the existing policy and supports aims in both the Housing Renewal Policy aims and the Empty Property Strategy.

24.        The eligibility for the loan and the loan's terms and conditions have been set by Welsh Government and apply across Wales.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

25.        The Strategic and Financial lead of the Region will require resources to initially draw the funding and then monitor the Regional loan pot.  The Strategic and Financial Lead role to be undertaken by this Authority on behalf of Cardiff Council and ourselves is estimated to require 0.05 FTE as discussed earlier in the report. Currently there is no contribution expected from Cardiff. The new post in Public Protection would help address this resource need.

26.        To deliver individual loans within the Vale resources will be required in Public Protection and Legal Services.  As indicated a temporary post has been created until the 31st March 2014 to assist meeting this resource need.  Again, this post could assist with the demand on Legal Services through sending out loan and legal charge agreements and assist in the administration process of securing the legal charge against the property.

27.        The House to Homes loan is funded via a Welsh Government grant.  On repayment of the individual loans, this funding is required to be recycled into further Houses to Homes loan as part of the Grant funding terms and conditions.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

28.        The Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 requires the Council to have a Housing Renewal Policy in place in order that it can offer assistance to owners to repair, improve or adapt their property.  Amendment to the existing policy is required to provide the Council will the legal authority to offer the House to Homes loans.

Crime and Disorder Implications

29.        There are no negative crime and disorder implications arising from the policy. 

30.        Work to return empty property back into use may assist in reducing crime and disorder associated with empty properties.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

31.        Increasing the number of empty properties back into beneficial use will assist the Council meet its housing need in the area. 

Corporate/Service Objectives

32.        Corporate Plan 2010-14 - Regeneration Priority

Aim - To work with partners to develop a sustainable community which maximises opportunities for economic growth, social improvement and environmental regeneration and protection

Improvement Objective 30

To encourage the development of a diversified and sustainable community by working in partnership to improve the quality of life of the Vale’s residents.

33.        Public Protection Service Plan 2012-13

Objective 1 - To support and enforce health, safety and wellbeing in the home environment

Policy Framework and Budget

34.        This is a matter for Executive decision

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

35.        No public consultation on Policy amendment as the eligibility criteria and terms and conditions of the loan are fixed as part of the Welsh Government Houses to Home scheme and Grant Funding Award.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

36.        Housing and Community Safety

Background Papers

None

 

Contact Officer

Elen Probert, Principal Housing and Pollution Officer, Public Protection

 

Officers Consulted

Rob Ingram, Principal Finance Officer, Finance

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Director of Development Services

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