SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC
Minutes of a meeting held on 16th
Present: Councillor Mrs. M.R.
Wilkinson (Chairman); Councillor J.C. Bird (Vice-Chairman);
Councillors Mrs. S.M. Bagstaff, Ms. B.E. Brooks, J. Clifford, S.C.
Egan, J.F. Fraser, J.W. Thomas, W.C. Vaughan, S.T. Wiliam and
443 MINUTES -
RESOLVED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting
held on 17th September, 2008 be approved as a correct
444 DECLARATIONS OF
There were no declarations of interest.
445 REQUEST FOR
CONSIDERATION - COUNCILLOR MRS. M.R. WILKINSON -
The Chairman had submitted a 'Request for
Consideration' seeking information with regard to work undertaken
on a void property at Elizabeth Avenue, Barry and in particular
whether the work undertaken on the void property had been completed
and whether such work met the necessary required standard on
inspection with regard to the Wales Housing Quality Standards.
In response to the above request the Head of
Housing Services had submitted a report which dealt with the
Chairman's requests in three parts i.e.
relation to the DSO performance in respect of the upgrading of the
void property at Elizabeth Avenue, Barry;
relating to the DSO's role in the future delivery of the Wales
Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) and
whether the Council had identified the services of funding in order
to complete the WHQS programme by 2015.
The Head of Service went on the deal with each
question in order raised and in particular to (a) it was indicated
that the Chairman had met with the Head of Building and Vehicle
Services at the above property and was satisfied that the property
had been brought up to the required standard. However, the
Chairman indicated that having had time to consider the works
undertaken at the Elizabeth Avenue property she expressed concern
in relation to the standard of the works undertaken and their
compliance with the WHQS.
In respect of (b), currently both the Building
Services and Property Services Departments were supporting the
Interim WHQS programme by specifying works, letting small term
contracts to local contractors through the tender process and
acting as contract monitors. The Head of Service indicated
whilst this approach was seeing the interim programme delivered it
was not the ideal method for managing the level of investment
necessary to meet the initiative for the following reasons:
Both Departments were effectively acting as client agents for which
there was an 8% agency fee charge against the WHQS budget. It
was considered that this arrangement was not appropriate given the
complexity of the works anticipated.
The Council had recently agreed to let the main programme,
commencing in 2009 to external contractors under a partnering
arrangement and consequently there would be a reduced role for
either Property Services or Building Services in the delivery of
the main programme.
A reduced role for Property Services in assisting with the
technical specification for some elements of work e.g. mechanical
and engineering was possible but this had yet to be agreed.
In addition, Building Services had been given the opportunity to
undertake some void work up to the WHQS requirement, subject to a
number of provisos namely; the work was done to the same standard
of quality, cost and timeliness as the WHQS contractors. In
the event that this criteria could not be met then the WHQS void
works would be given to external contractors.
In order to assess the Building Services DSO in respect of the WHQS
void works it was anticipated that they would be given a number of
void properties in poor condition as 'pilot schemes' over the
remainder of the current financial year. Elizabeth Avenue was
the first of such properties.
The Head of Service also referred to other
reports to be considered in the agenda regarding WHQS Progress
Report to which the latest HRA Business Plan assumptions had been
on current identified investment needs, the Business Plan appeared
to be viable
the identified investment required had been established through a
10% sample survey of the housing stock. The programme of
whole house surveys was designed to add substance to the sample
surveys so that the Council had in time, a complete picture of the
stock and the understanding of all the investment requirements to
both reach and maintain the properties at WHQS.
It was noted that the Business Plan would be
kept under regular review and would be further assessed if either
increased investment was identified following further surveys or
some of the financial assumptions required revisiting.
Discussion ensued regarding the number of
concerns raised by the Committee in respect of the following
The requirement for the installation of thermostatic showers in
Council Housing Stock under the WHQS and health and safety issues
in relation to alternative shower components.
Cost and details of work carried out at Elizabeth Avenue in
comparison to the two 'show home' properties.
The available budget to undertake the WHQS work.
Reasons for the delay in completing work at Elizabeth Avenue and
the specification used.
Interpretation of the difference between agreed service standards
and PI within Service Plan relating to the average number of days
for completing major voids.
(1) T H A
T the Head of Housing Services provide to the next meeting of the
Scrutiny Committee a comprehensive financial breakdown of the costs
and work undertaken at Elizabeth Avenue, Barry, O'Donnell Road,
Barry and Laburnham Way, Penarth and whether the components
installed at the above properties met the component standard
required under the WHQS.
(2) T H A
T the Head of Housing Services make appropriate arrangements to
ensure that the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Scrutiny
Committee (Housing and Public Protection) and the relevant Cabinet
Member(s) in future be invited to inspect properties of a similar
condition encountered with Elizabeth Avenue, Barry.
Reasons for recommendations
assess the value for money of the work undertaken at the identified
properties and that the components installed at Elizabeth Avenue
satisfied the WHQS.
allow Elected Members to be informed of complex major void
properties or such complex work undertaken as part of the WHQS.
446 WHQS UPDATE
The report sought to provide the Scrutiny
Committee with progress towards meeting the WHQS. All social
landlords were required by the Welsh Assembly Government to bring
their social housing stock up to the Welsh Housing Quality
Standards by 2012. WAG had agreed a general extension to the
timescale to 2015 where a social landlord could demonstrate that it
would complete the health and safety works required under the WHQS
by 2012 and had a Business Plan that would provide the finance over
a 30 year period to both reach the standards and to maintain its
stock at that level.
The Council had developed a Business Plan that
currently indicated that it could meet the standards and maintain
the stock at that level within a Stock Retention strategy.
At the moment a major piece of work had been
undertaken in respect of the development of a Project Plan and it
was essential for the success of the project that all the key
milestones and actions were identified and time bound targets.
The Committee were reminded that it also had
previously agreed a Tenant Engagement Strategy and Action Plan at
its meeting on the 17th September, 2008 which was
subsequently approved by the Cabinet on 1st October,
A tenant's Working Group of the Tenant's Panel
was now engaged in agreeing the standard of kitchens and bathrooms,
choices of finishes of kitchen units, and the type and range of
floor coverings in kitchens and bathrooms. Part of the above
Panel's brief was to also develop a 'Contractors’ Code of Conduct'
when undertaking works in tenant's homes. The report also
addressed issues relating to show homes and the Interim Programme
which was currently fully committed this current financial year on
central heating upgrades, new external doors, window replacements
and flat roofing works at Gibbonsdown. It was hoped that the
window replacement programme would be completed in the current
In addition to the above matters, officers
were currently investigating a different approach to the use of
components and were undertaking a cost benefit analysis in order to
assess the 'best fit' of components used over the life of the 30
year Business Plan.
Other issues addressed within the report
related to the funding arrangements of the Business Plan which was
presently kept under regular review by the Director of Finance, ICT
and Property; whole house surveys which related to initial work
undertaken by Savills regarding the first 700 scoping surveys and
their contribution to building the outcomes of the surveys to a
database which would be added to the original data relating to the
10% sample surveys. It was also noted that Savills had
trained the Council's in-house WHQS surveying team who would be
shortly embarking on the next phase of surveys. It was
anticipated by the summer of 2009 that over 50% of the Council's
stocks would have been fully surveyed and the data used to further
inform the investment plan.
Work was progressing in respect of the
provision of a detailed five year investment programme, the ideal
working packaging options and a strategic plan that was affordable
and deliverable. Part of the strategic planning process was
to undertake a review of more difficult housing stock such as non
traditional properties and to develop an asset management strategy
which may need to consider selective disposal of particular types
of property which were considered uneconomical to bring up to
WHQS. The pre-tender work was crucial given the tender
document established the future relationship between the
contractors and the Council and therefore needed to be legally
precise as possible. It was indicated that there was concern
over the Council's ability to undertake the exercise given that
insufficient staff resources were available and that technical
expertise to develop the procurement frameworks on an exercise of
this complexity available to it and consequently it was likely that
consultant support would need to be procured. As for
non-traditional housing surveys a preliminary report from Curtains
Structured Surveyors had now been received and further information
in respect of energy efficiency had been requested. The
findings of the report was anticipated to be presented to the
Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 6th November,
In responding to a question, the Head of
Housing Services indicated that it was anticipated that this
surveying work would be undertaken in tranches of several hundred
properties over 5 - 6 phases.
Reference was also made to concerns with
regard to the reduction in anticipated capital receipts under the
Right to Buy scheme and the disposal of Penarth Heights. The
Head of Housing Services reiterated that the Business Plan was
continually reviewed to take account of changes in the economic
environment and a contingency plan was in place which was not
reliant on the above capital receipts.
Having regard to the above and related issues
(1) T H A
T the Head of Housing Services submit the report findings relating
to the non-traditional housing survey to the meeting to be held on
6th November, 2008.
(2) T H A
T the Head of Housing Services submit the details of the WHQS
Project Plan to the meeting to be held on 17th December,
(3) T H A
T the Head of Housing Services submit the draft 'Contractors’ Code
of Conduct' for undertaking works under the WHQS in tenants homes
to the meeting to be held on 17th December, 2008.
Reasons for recommendations
apprise Members of the findings of the review.
allow scrutiny of the WHQS Project Plan.
allow scrutiny of the draft Code of Conduct.
447 REVIEW OF HOMES4U
ALLOCATIONS POLICY (DLPPHS) -
Under the requirements of Section 167 of the
Housing Act 1996 local authorities were required to have a
'Allocation Scheme' for determining priorities and a procedure to
be followed in allocating housing.
The Council's current Allocations policy was
adopted in June 2003 under the title Homes4U and had undergone a
number of procedural reviews. However, in light of new
guidance, legal advice and best practice the Housing Division had
now instigated a root and branch review of the policy.
The lettings policy was expected to address a
number of strategic objectives for example, meeting housing needs,
contribute to the development of a balanced and sustainable
communities, to promote social inclusion, minimise re-let void
properties, including low demand and high turnover estates to name
but a few. In practice it was difficult to balance these
objectives particularly in high demand areas, where there was a
requirement to balance need and choice.
As in the case of many other Council policies,
there was also a requirement to monitor and review the policy and
to re-test assumptions to ensure that the original objectives of
the Council had not changed and would continue to be met.
Since the launch of the original scheme the
situation had changed considerably in that the supply of affordable
housing opportunities had diminished to the point where applicants
with the greatest housing need could expect to wait between 9-12
months before they were re-housed.
Having regard to the above issues, officers
felt that there was a more fundamental review required to deal with
the change in housing market, to follow newly issued guidance and
to incorporate legal advice which suggested that areas of the
current policy may now be unlawful. The review would also
attempt to meet expectations and aspirations of those in housing
need in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Discussion ensued regarding that
practicalities of introducing a new policy that was transparent and
easily understood by applicants but also reflected the needs of the
Given the general lack of affordable housing,
discussion then ensued on the issue of 'local connections' and the
possibility of introducing a local lettings policy. The
Operational Manager for Housing Services indicated that this would
prove challenging given the Council had a statutory responsibility
to comply with Equal Opportunity Policies but also fundamentally,
acknowledge the freedom of choice of the individual.
Committee also made reference to the acute
problem of affordable housing in rural areas and to the opposing
policies of the Council which prevented the development of
affordable housing in the rural parts of the Vale due to planning
constraints. Councillor Thomas referred to the matter of
supply and demand and linking this with the WAG Affordable Housing
Supplementary Planning Guidance which was now part of the Council's
UDP. He suggested that the Committee receive an appropriate
presentation from the Planning Officers regarding delivering
affordable housing in rural areas.
Having regard to the above and related issues
(1) T H A
T the progress with regard to the Review be noted.
(2) T H A
T the findings of the Review of the Council's Adopted Allocations
Policy be presented by the Head of Housing Services to the meeting
of the Committee to be held on 17th December, 2008.
(3) T H A
T the Head of Planning and Transportation be requested to brief the
Committee on the implications of delivering the WAG’s Affordable
Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance, particularly in the rural
Reasons for recommendations
acknowledgement of progress made to date.
apprise Members of the outcome of the Review of the Council's
apprise Members of issues relating to social housing
448 SOCIAL HOUSING
GRANT PROGRAMME (DLPPHS) -
The report sought to advise Members of the
Social Housing Grant bids made to the Welsh Assembly Government for
2010/2011, for the provision of affordable housing and the
replacement of the housing hostel, the details of which were set
out in the Appendix to the report.
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Social Housing Grant
programme bids as set out in Appendix A to the report be noted.
Reason for recommendation
So that the Committee was aware of the
Council's bid under the above programme.
449 REVENUE AND
CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO
31ST AUGUST, 2008 (DLPPHS) -
The current forecast for the Revenue Budget
for 2008/09 was indicating a balanced budget. The Housing
Revenue Account was currently showing a favourable variance of
£212,000 which was largely due to some vacant posts within the new
structure. It was further noted that there were less right to
buy sales in previous years which had resulted in the level of rent
collectable being higher than anticipated. It was anticipated
that the HRA at the current time would outturn on target.
With regard to Private Sector
Housing/Community Safety there was currently a £100,000 adverse
variance to the profile budget due to demands on the Homelessness
Service as previously reported to the Committee.
Details were also contained within the report
on the financial progress in relation to the Capital Programme
which had been adjusted to take account of changes made in respect
of the Housing Improvement Plan where the Director of Finance, ICT
and Property in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance,
who would use delegated powers to make additions and deletions or
transfers from the Housing Capital Budget for the current financial
year by an increase of £106,000 and the making of a number of
virements to the 2008/09 Housing Investment Programme. In
addition, the Building Safer Communities Budget for the current
financial year had been amended to take account of a grant in the
sum of £50,109 which had been received from the Home Office to
address crime and anti-social behaviour. The Council had also
been allowed to carry forward £446 of the previous year's
allocation into the financial year 2008/09 and accordingly the
funding had been allocated over two schemes namely Alley Gates to
cover the area between High Street and Broad Street, Barry and the
provision of CCTV camera at Boverton Road, Llantwit
Also appended to the report were details of
the non financial information on capital schemes with the budget
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard
to the 2008/09 Revenue and Capital Budgets be noted.
450 REVIEW OF IN-HOUSE
STORES AND SUPPORT FUNCTION (DEER) -
The report summarised to date the work
undertaken to meet the findings of the review by TRIBAL Consultants
of the Building Maintenance Direct Service Organisations in-house
stores and support function.
Since the review's original recommendations a
cost benefit analysis of the Stores had been undertaken to identify
that value for money was being achieved or that a viable
alternative should be considered. Other initiatives such as
providing staff with builders/credit card and vehicle stock had
also been suggested. The review of vehicle stock had been
undertaken to ensure that adequate and appropriate imprest stock
was being held in order to increase the number of jobs completed at
the first call. A number of internal reviews and audits had
also been undertaken which had confirmed that the service was to be
generally satisfactory and associated action plans had resulted in
a number of improvements some of which were detailed in the
In addition there had also been a significant
improvement in benchmark performance in respect of the overhead
cost of the stores function and this had been reduced from the
previous 15.2% in the financial year 2004/05 to 13.2% in the
financial year 2007/08.
Following on from the previous audits and
reviews undertaken, a number of improvements designed to compliment
the Building Maintenance Business Plan had been identified and
agreed. In order to monitor progress of these improvements,
an action plan and performance indicators were currently being
developed. The specific improvements relating to materials
and Stores Support were detailed in the report.
RECOMMENDED - T H A T the progress and the
future actions as set out in the report be noted.
Reason for decision
In acknowledgement of progress to date with
regard to the Building Services In-House Stores and Support