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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) 2nd November 2011

 

Joint Report of the Director of Finance, ICT & Property and the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services.

 

Housing Business Plan - Update

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To update Scrutiny Committee on the progress of the Housing Business Plan

Recommendations

It is recommended that:

1.             The draft Housing Business Plan be considered and any comments passed to Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee as the lead Scrutiny Committee

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             In order that Cabinet be informed of the comments of Scrutiny Committees before making a final proposal on the Housing Business Plan

Background

2.             The draft Housing Business Plan was presented to Cabinet on the 19th October 2011 and referred to this committee. Since the Plan was presented a number of pieces of work have been completed and additional information is now available.

Relevant Issues and Options

3.             Data has been gathered on the types of housing properties the Council owns across the 4 different contact areas and is included at Appendix A.

4.             A proposed investment programme for the period 2012/13 to 2016/17 has been drawn up and is set out in detail at Appendix B. Table 1 in the appendix shows the individual schemes and amount to be spent in each year broken down over the main contract areas where possible. The heading of General Improvements relates to other work necessary to achieve the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) and includes environmental works, damp remediation works, insulation, external cladding, wall ties, repointing etc. Activity is currently underway to establish the necessary schemes and plan a detailed programme.

5.             Table 2 of Appendix B shows the key elements and number of properties expected to be completed during that period.  This information replaces the table contained in section 3.3 of the Business Plan submitted to Cabinet.

6.             The figures have been based on the overall requirement derived from the 2007 stock condition survey. The overall requirement has been allocated into the 4 contract areas pro-rata to the total number of dwellings in each.

7.             Appendix C details capital expenditure on Housing since 2007, the date of the major stock condition survey. The table shows for each scheme, actual expenditure for the financial years 2007/08 to 2010/11 and the target programme for 2011/12. The table below shows the key elements of WHQS completed in that period.

Component

   Total

Window & Door Replacements

1637

Doors only

700

Central Heating & Boiler Renewals

1914

Door Entry Systems

226

Level access showers

276

Rewiring

41

Electrical Testing

465

Smoke alarms

176

Communal Rewiring

53

Communal Doors

135

Roofing

402

 

8.             The investment programme set out in Appendix B will be the basis for the Invitation to Tender documentation due to be sent out in December 2011. It is expected that, over the period to 2016/17, Building Services will carry out approximately £4.5m of works on kitchen renewals, electrical rewiring and bathroom replacements across all of the 4 geographical areas of the Vale. It is currently the intention that the sheltered accommodation will form part of this allocation.

9.             The investment programme has been drawn up on the basis of the 2007 survey and existing data. It may change following the results of the tender process or further surveys. About 6 weeks before works are actually commenced the clerk of works accompanied by the tenant liaison officer and contractor will visit each property included in that contract. That visit will establish the exact scope of works and address any specific needs of the tenant, which can be drawn into the improvement works, e.g. walk in shower, kitchen design. Decisions over choice of kitchen units, worktops and tiles etc will also be made at this meeting.

10.        Finally, the tenant liaison officer will also be discussing with the tenant any particular concerns the tenant may have in respect to coping with the improvements. This will identify if the tenant will need, for example, help in packing things away, moving furniture etc.

11.        It is proposed that the final Housing Business Plan will include more information on the Housing Management Service. This will include the following areas :

                   The Council has adopted a more pro-active approach towards tenancy management with greater emphasis on officers being out on the estates picking up problems before these escalate into more serious matters. Housing Officers are also working closely with tenant/resident groups finding joint solutions to estate based issues.

                   Antisocial behaviour (ASB) is a serious problem on a number of the housing estates and this is being tackled through a partnership approach involving the Police, Safer Vale Unit, Environmental Health and Housing Association Partners. A revised ASB policy and process was introduced in 2010 which encourages early intervention along with professional support to the victim. There would be further benefit if additional front line resource was provided to tackle ASB.

                   Despite significant financial pressures on many tenants, nearly 99% of rent due was collected through effective arrears control, supporting tenants with direct financial advice and signposting tenants to specialist agencies. Pro-active tenancy management such as “start-up” visits to ensure new tenants have completed all of the necessary benefit forms and home visiting as soon as tenants start having payment difficulties, has also helped to combat rent arrears.

12.        A warden service provides additional support for tenants living in, or linked to, a sheltered housing scheme. Where eligible, Supporting People Grant funds additional support for tenants living in the general housing stock. In consultation with tenants, the Council is currently reviewing its approach as the number of older tenants and disabled people who require support to live independently is increasing.

13.        The Council provides an emergency alarm service for around 1400 of the more vulnerable tenants which provides a 24/7 emergency contact in the event of any emergency in the home. This service is in the process of being upgraded to enable tenants to migrate to a more bespoke, specialised service which links the tenant remotely to a range of support. . 

14.        The proposed spending on day to day Housing Services (revenue expenditure) for each year until 2016/17 is included at Appendix D. This shows a decreasing level of revenue balances as they are used to fund the Housing Improvement Programme. By the end of 2014/15 the reserves are projected to be at a level deemed a prudent minimum.

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

15.        The report to Cabinet on the 19th October 2011 and included on this agenda, indicates that, depending on the Council's view of the maximum level of prudential borrowing considered prudent, there is potential for additional investment. The following 2 paragraphs provide an indication of the impact of additional expenditure.

16.        Increasing revenue expenditure by £50k from 2012/13 would increase peak debt from the £31.2M in the draft plan to £31.5M and reduce the projected revenue surplus in year 30 from £104.7M to £101.8M. Borrowing increases as there is less funding for capital in revenue balances and prudential borrowing has been substituted.

17.        Increasing capital expenditure by £1M in 2013/14 would increase peak debt from the £31.2M in the draft plan to £32.4m and reduce the projected revenue surplus in year 30 from £104.7M to £102.1M.

18.        It needs to be remembered that the figures in the Housing Business Plan are projections and if financial conditions worsen then the level of investment proposed may not be achievable.  Importantly, the Welsh Government guide rent increase and the amount of subsidy repayable for next financial year are not yet known.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.        It is a legal requirement of the Welsh Government that each Local Authority produces a business plan and 30 year financial forecast describing how it will provide the investment to meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS).

Crime and Disorder Implications

20.        Many of the requirements of the WHQS contribute to the Crime and Disorder agenda, in particular the requirements of safe and secure dwellings located in safe and attractive environments.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21.        The Housing Investment Programme improves the Council’s opportunities for assisting disadvantaged members of society. An equality impact assessment will be conducted on the Housing Business Plan. Carrying out the assessment involves systematically assessing the likely (or actual) effects on people in respect of disability, gender, sexuality (including gender identity), age, Welsh language, and racial equality.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.        Meeting the WHQS and the Housing Improvement Programme contributes to the Councils corporate priority of making the Vale and safe, healthy and enjoyable place to live via good quality housing and to achieve a quality environment.

Policy Framework and Budget

23.        The Housing Business Plan is a matter for recommendation by the Cabinet and approval by the Council.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.        The Tenant's Panel, Corporate Resources Scrutiny and Trade Unions will also be consulted on the draft Housing Business Plan

Background Papers

Housing Stock Transfer - Council's Offer to Tenants - November 2010

Housing Revenue Account Subsidy (HRAS) and Item 8 Determination

Major Repairs Allowance (MRA) Terms & Conditions

A New Policy for Social Housing Rents (Consultation Paper), Welsh Assembly Government - 31st March 2011

Residential Long Leaseholders, A guide to your rights and responsibilities, Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

 

Contact Officer

Sian Davies - Director of Finance, ICT & Property

 

Officers Consulted

Tony Jaques - Head of Housing Services

Jane Wade - Operational Manager Property

 

Responsible Officers:

Sian Davies Director of Finance ICT & Property

Peter Evans Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services